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England's Vaughan out of Ashes campaign

By Adam Cooper 06/07/2006 08:25:53 PM Comments (0)

England has been dealt a massive blow ahead of its Ashes defence in Australia next summer with captain Michael Vaughan ruled out of the series after a fourth operation on his troublesome right knee.

And if losing the man whose astute leadership was a major factor in England's 2-1 series win in 2005 is not bad enough, there are fears Vaughan's career might be over at 31, as his latest bout of surgery revealed more extensive damage to the joint than expected.

England, which has not won a Test series since its home triumph last year, must now choose between allrounder Andrew Flintoff, who is also currently injured, and openers Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick who will lead the side next summer.

Vaughan, who has not played for his country since he returned home prematurely from England's tour of India in March, underwent surgery on Monday hoping he could still have recovered in time for the start of the Ashes.

The first Test starts in Brisbane on November 23.

But an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) spokesman said: "I can confirm that Michael will miss the Ashes tour."

The ECB added it would issue a full statement on the Yorkshire batsman's condition.

The top order batsman attempted a comeback with his county Yorkshire last month, but his injury again flared and it was decided he needed more surgery.

Vaughan's absence leaves a gaping hole in the England team - both tactically and stability-wise in the batting line-up.

Trescothick, Flintoff and Strauss have all stood in as captain in Vaughan's absence this year, but without results.

Strauss oversaw the recent 5-0 ODI series thrashing to Sri Lanka, but will lead the side into the first Test against Pakistan next week, at Lord's.

Flintoff is expected to resume the captaincy once he returns.

Vaughan also averages 48 as either an opener or No.3 against Australia, and was the player of the series against the old enemy in 2002-03, when he scored 633 runs for the series despite Australia's easy 4-1 win.

The Vaughan blow, the ongoing knee problems that bowling ace Simon Jones is experiencing and England's dire form have combined to put Australia firmly in the driver's seat to regain the urn.

Jones, who proved himself his country's best exponent at reverse swing during a breakthrough 2005 series, has not played since the fourth Test in Nottingham last year and is also in extreme doubt to make the trip.

Left-arm spinner Ashley Giles (hip) and fast bowler James Anderson (back) are also under injury clouds at the moment.

England's last three Test series since the win over Australia have been lost (Pakistan, away), drawn (India, away) and drawn (Sri Lanka, home).

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