England consider arranging more matches

Published: Monday, July 24, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England are considering arranging more matches to allow their injured players, and Andrew Flintoff in particular, to get match-fit before the winter's Ashes series.

Already without captain Michael Vaughan, who is hoping to make his return from knee surgery in January, England fear the comeback of inspirational all-rounder Andrew Flintoff could be delayed by a lack of available action.

Flintoff is due to have a second operation on his troublesome left ankle this week which will sideline him for three months, ruling him out of the Pakistan Test and One-day series and establishing him as a major doubt for October's Champions Trophy tournament in India.

But without playing in the Champions Trophy, Flintoff will be desperately short of match action before England arrive in Australia for a One-day match and two three-day games prior to the opening Test in Brisbane on November 23.

Chairman of selectors David Graveney has admitted to being "mischievous" when he suggested Cricket Australia may want to help arrange practice matches, but it is an avenue England may consider anyway.

"I was being a little mischievous when I said that, but there are a couple of areas we may look at," he explained.

"We know (former Hampshire batsman) Paul Terry has a set-up in Perth and we could look at setting up matches in India, so there are a couple of places we could go to if we felt it would help."

Flintoff remains a priority for England because of his importance to the side, but the same could apply to injured duo Ashley Giles (hip) and Simon Jones (knee), although both of them remain major doubts for the Ashes because they are yet to play this season.

England do not want a repetition of the last Ashes tour, when Flintoff and Darren Gough were picked while still recovering from injuries and had to be sent home without playing any part in the series.

"The last trip to Australia was shambolic," stressed Graveney. "Freddie arrived at the Academy in Adelaide and he could hardly walk, let alone bowl.

"Regrettably we may be heading for the same situation to a degree. We might have a number of guys going there that are physically fit, but not match fit.

"I believe Flintoff will be physically fit. What we have to do with Freddie and Ashley, because he's making positive noises as well, we've got to arrange enough cricket for them so they are running when they actually get there for the first Test on November 23."

While Flintoff embarks on a long rehabilitation process, England will be led by Andrew Strauss, who captained England during the drawn opening Test at Lord's and has been handed the responsibility for the remainder of the npower Test series.

He has been given the same squad selected at Lord's which has been strengthened by the call-up of uncapped off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple, who impressed despite England's 5-0 one-day series whitewash earlier this summer against Sri Lanka.

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