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Vaughan under pressure for successful series bid

Jonathan Agnew | 11:06 UK time, Sunday, 11 May 2008

So we will never know if, in the eyes of the selectors, Andrew Flintoff's ankle has recovered sufficiently for him to return to Test cricket. Having asked around, I reckon they would have given him more time at Lancashire had this aggravating - and completely unconnected - side strain not cropped up.

Dave Roberts, Flintoff's fitness coach, told me that ideally he wanted Flintoff to have another 100 overs under his belt before being recalled - and there is also the fact that he has hardly scored a run this season to consider.

So Freddie returns to the physio's couch for now, and England have named what ended the recent New Zealand tour as their strongest 12.

Andrew Flintoff during the Liverpool and Victoria County Championship match against Durham.jpg

Matthew Hoggard returns, but Steve Harmison does not - no surprise there in that we all felt that Harmison's omission was always likely to be long term, while Hoggard was inexcusably short of match practice before the first Test of that tour.

Once he rediscovered his nip, Hoggard's reliability is something England badly need in only a four-man attack, and James Anderson was unable to provide that in the final Test of the series in Napier.

So, I fancy Hoggard to return at Anderson's expense, and there might well be some tinkering at the top of the order.

Until very recently, Michael Vaughan openly stated his preference for opening the batting. He said this when Andrew Strauss first appeared in the side, and Vaughan moved down to accommodate him.

In New Zealand we were rightly told that the Vaughan/Alastair Cook partnership was one of the few successes in Sri Lanka, and that it needed to be continued with.

Now, though, Vaughan has shifted his gaze to number three, and I reckon that is where he will bat on Thursday, with Strauss returning to open with Cook.

A right-hand/left-hand combination is much more preferable, and England were generally short of runs throughout the winter: a failing that must seriously be addressed not least by Vaughan himself, who scored just 123 runs in his six innings in New Zealand.

The knives are not yet being sharpened, but the captain can ill afford a poor series.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think it would've been better if the selectors had announced that this squad holds for the first 2 Tests only. Apart from Vaughan and Hoggard, even Collingwood has been having a very poor average of late, so with Flintoff probably back in the reckoning, the selectors could've told the squad "Perform in the first 2 Tests, or else....."

  • Comment number 2.

    Cracking areas Aggers!

    if the England bowler are like you, right on the spot we will skittle the kiwis out.
    personally i think that like the winter we will learn very little from this series, iam uncovinced by the bowlers, and when the batters are put under any king of sustained pressue iam equally dubious. this is why the SA Africa series will be very interesting. personally iam far from convinced by the coach, he seems to speak only in cliced 'management speak'. he seems like 'Peter without a plan'.
    I do disagree on 1 point Aggers we should retain Anderson, to maintain consistancey , afterall in the 2nd test of the last series we were all praising him when he took 5 wickets, saying that he must have a sustained run in the side. and additionally he has had a good start to the summer. iam concerned about Broad, although he has potential, it is not enough to be playing test cricket on, this is a man afterall who has only taken 1 first class 5 for. there are some worries in his action, and iam concerned when quality opposition in SA rock up whether he will be exposed and take several steps backward.

    cheers for the blog Aggers, i hope to hear more of the same over the summer.

    Every word is indeed a gem.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well Aggers you obviously do not read 606 as the knives are well and truely out for Vaughan.

    I do not think they should risk Colly if he isn't fit.

  • Comment number 4.

    The selectors could've gone in for an extra batsman instead of a bowler in the 12. The bowling has been quite decent over the last 12 months, specially with Harmison absent.

    Now, there's no pressure on the batsmen to recover form. Wright should've been named instead of Hoggard / Anderson.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is it just me or was Flintoff's injury a touch convenient, and mutually beneficial at this point?

    I would have thought that pencilling him in for the third test was the best option anyway.

    Vaughan is in a perilous place and a no.3 slot is the best option for him. Putting Strauss at the top again makes sense because Carberry and Key are waiting in the wings if need be.

  • Comment number 6.

    Andrew Flintoff's injury is, at least in part, a consequence of not being match fit. It is why it would have been a huge risk to put him into a 5-day Test: he's hardly bowled for 18 months and his body will take time to get used to the strain. And in a 5-day Test he'll make an even bigger effort. Without this injury there would have been a strong case to pick him for the 3rd Test, right now I'm not sure if he could be risked in the 1st Test v South Africa unless he really gets some hard overs in after his injury.

    The knives are out for Michael Vaughan, as Sister Karen says, but his overall Test record in 2007 was superb. Unfortunately most fans have memories that don't go much beyond the last Test, so it is not too surprising that captaining England to a come-back win counts for less than having a poor series with the bat (not that he was the only one). At Michael Vaughan's age and with his injury record though there is always a feeling that any series may be your last. Unfortunately, he's never been a big scorer in County cricket and he really does need a score to get the fans off his back. England can't afford a captaincy crisis right now, so let's try to avoid one.

    I feel sorry for Ravi Bopara, but there are signs that his form has just run out, so maybe not selecting him has been an inspired move!

  • Comment number 7.

    Bopara has been given a full series - 3 Tests on the trot, and failed. It is obvious that his runs in the second division count for much less in the Test arena.

    Key and Shah need to be given 3 Tests each now, they have done well in the first division, but did not get extended breaks in the Test team yet.

    It is amusing to read Vaughan's remarks about England's Ashes prospects - the Ashes are more than 14 months away!

  • Comment number 8.

    Rob Key has had plenty of chances. With a Test average of just over 30, despite a double century he needs to do a lot to convince anyone that he is worth selection. Take out that double century and his Test average drops to around 20.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rob Key has played 15 Tests. 5 series. And has only once averaged over 27. In 3 series he played at least 3 Tests. In a fourth he played both Tests of a short series (averging 11 v Zimbabwe).

  • Comment number 10.

    Vaughan's ashes comments were some of the most arrogant things i have read.

    A team that barely beat the horrible kiwis and has gone from 2nd to 5th should not be shouting bring on the world champs when they are still 18 months away.

    England need to start showing some respect for series other than the ashes and the skipper needs to worry a little more about his batting as his captaincy has been ordinary this past year and he can no longer hang his hat on being skipper first a run getter second.

  • Comment number 11.

    Calling them "the horrible kiwis" hardly shows respect! Doctor heal thyself!

  • Comment number 12.

    I said england need to show them respect, you know as they were lucky not to lose to them...

    Doesn't mean the kiwis are a good team it just means england aren't either.

  • Comment number 13.

    No one's mentioned Ramprakash yet. If Key and Shah shold be given chances for making first division runs, why shouldn't Ramprakash? He is obviously the best batsman in the country, and he has improved a lot since his last Test appearances six years ago. Some people say he is too old, but as England only seem to work towards the Ashes, he would be fine to pick, as he will still be around next summer. However, as a Surrey fan, I'm pleased, as we seem to have found a good middle order with Ramprakash, Butcher, Afzaal and Brown.

  • Comment number 14.

    Can anyone tell me if tms online commentary will be uk users only or will it be available to those of us living overseas?

  • Comment number 15.

    England cricket fans have such irritatingly short memories! Yes, Vaughan was poor in New Zealand, but he was good in Sri Lanka, and our best batsman last summer.

    He's short of form, but it will come back!

    No patience whatsoever

  • Comment number 16.

    If Vaughany can't make runs at home against New Zealand's pop gun attack perhaps he needs to start worrying.
    Having said that, with the likelihood of a comfortable 3-0 win in the offing, he is unlikely to be under massive pressure by the time the Proteas come a-calling. Playing Steyn and Morkel might be a bit more of a challenge.

  • Comment number 17.

    @davidsccc(13): surprise surprise, an England Test squad selection comes round and someone shouts "Where's Ramprakash". Whether his batting has improved since he last played for England or not, Ramp's figures speak for themselves; 52 tests, 12 fifties but only 2 hundreds (and people think Bell's conversion rate (18/7) is bad!) and an average of 27. Compare that to his very impressive First Class record (134 fifties, 99 hundreds, avg, 53) and it's fairly clear that as good as he has *always* been in First Class cricket, he can't cope with the extra pressure of tests. I like ramps as a batsman - he's clarly got a lot of talent - but he's never been able to convert 1st Class ability into World Class ability.

    As to the England Squad, I don't think there are any surprises in there at all. I'd always play Hoggy before Anderson, although without Flintoff Anderson may be seen as having the greater firepower and get the nod. He's certainly been in the wickets this season. The batsmen all get reprieves again, although if I was Strauss or Vaughan I'd be looking over my shoulder nervously to see what's happening in county cricket.

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely, the selctors could already make the decision whther it is Anderson or Hoggard rather than including both in the squad.

    One will unnecessarily miss a county game, thus missing an opportunity to bowl before the next test.

    Why not pick an XI rather than a XII?

  • Comment number 19.

    We need to give Vaughn a chance to mold the team like he had when England won the Ashes. I think it is time to get rid of the old guard and bring through another 1 or two players this summer. We should talk about Denly for Kent to replace Strauss and then bring in actually give shah a chance at test cricket. But one day is where are strength will start to lie if we bring the players through. Rashid should be the spinner in the one day side and bring in Rob Key/Denly as they will offer impetus as the start of the innings. Or even we should just pick the best players on the county circuit for the games such as Ramps.

  • Comment number 20.

    For me, the batsmen have to perform against New Zealand, as most of the public see this test series as the warm up for South Africa.

    If the batsmen fail, we've got Carberry and Key waiting ready to pounce, who have already hit centuries against the Kiwi Attack this summer.

  • Comment number 21.

    I am disappointed, but not surprised by the 12 names in the England squad. We are guilty of complacency and misplaced loyalty. England performed well below par in NZ and could have lost the series.

    The chap who wrote about 'the likelihood of a comfortable 3-0 victory' is in cloud cuckoo land. But he is right about the threat of Morkel and Steyn later in the summer - we are in for a hiding from the Proteas. By the end of the summer, half a dozen test careers will be over and the younger generation - fresh minds with attacking instincts, will be taking over.

    for what it is worth my test team would be -

    Strauss (captain)

  • Comment number 22.

    im still a bit mystified with the squad thats been named, there anre injury doubts over collingwood and ambrose yet the 12th player namd is an extra fast bowler.. i would have been inclined to name luke wright or bopara so u have options. i think wright would have been a good choice at 6, offering aggresive brisk medium pace and good in the field, aswell of course as being in good form with the bat. colling wood has hardly lit up the test arena in the last 12 months!
    2nd test. cook
    12th man-anderson

  • Comment number 23.

    This is the most pointless blog I have ever read. From start to finish - talk about stating the obvious!

  • Comment number 24.


    Paul Collingwod has averaged nearly 42 with the bat and a shade under 27 with the ball in the last twelve months ... so suggesting he should be dropped on that form is a bit harsh.

  • Comment number 25.

    if only...

    strauss c
    ambrose w

  • Comment number 26.

    The lost man of English cricket has returned to the headlines with some impressive figures for Worcestershire...Simon Jones.

    We all know how effective he was against the Aussies in 05 and it is good to see him fit again and taking wickets. Once he has some more match practice under his belt he should definately be back in the frame.

    Fully fit, he offers a lot more than either Anderson (never believed he is truly test level standard) or Broad, also both too similar to Sidebottom and will get murdered by the Australians next year. I can still remember that spell from Jones against the Kiwis the last time they were here at Lords - some of the best bowling I have seen in a while

    For the third test, if fit, would be tempted to have Flintoff and Jones back in at the expense of the above - it will add some much needed balance to the side, plus they can both add runs down the order


  • Comment number 27.

    strauss certainly has the mental attributes 4 the captaincy!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Jones producing a good spell on Sunday is fantastic but one swallow does not a summer make.

    The signs are good but he is injury prone and has yet to do anything serious in a four day match (other than one wicket in 3 overs and then injured for the rest of that game and the next)

  • Comment number 29.

    vaughan is a media hype.

    NZ will thump England 2-0 in the 'sissy series'.

  • Comment number 30.

    I have to disagree with Aggers comments about Vaughan. When he first became captain he continued to open the batting and hardly scored a run. He tried batting at both three and four before finally finding he was able to successfully combine the captaincy with scoring runs by batting at three. He made a successful return to Test cricket last summer batting at three as captain in six Tests against the West Indies and India in which he scored significantly virtually every time he went out to bat including one hundred each against both the touring teams.

    For some bizarre reason he was then forced to open the batting against his will in Sri Lanka before Christmas. For Aggers to say that the Cook/Vaughan opening partnership in Sri Lanka was a success and it was right that it should have been continued in New Zealand is absolute nonsense. They were only successful as a pair on a flat wicket in Colombo in the second Test. Cook scored 0 and 4 in the first Test and Vaughan failed twice in the first and third Tests.

    When Strauss was recalled for the New Zealand series Vaughan made no secret of his desire to return to his prefered number three position but he was forced to continue to open because we were wrongly told that the Cook/Vaughan partnership had been a success in Sri Lanka and that Cook and Strauss were too alike to bat together. Despite this they shared a century partnership in the second Test in Wellington and a fifty partnership in the third Test in Napier. I accept that Strauss went into the New Zealand series lacking form and confidence and therefore perhaps it was in his best interests to try and rediscover his form and confidence at three. As that is what happened the time is now right for Strauss to return to his prefered position as opener and for Vaughan to return to his prefered number three position. There is no doubt in my mind that Vaughan's loss of form during the winter is largely due to the fact that he was forced to open the batting against his will. I am confident that he will return to form if he returns to his prefered number three position. If the Strauss/Cook partnership doesn't work both Carberry and Key are waiting in the wings, but as long as Vaughan is captain he should be allowed to bat where he wants to and that's at number three.

  • Comment number 31.

    regarding vaughan (and strauss too), the phrase 'form is temporary, class is permament' springs to mind. they are both good players and should both be allowed to bat in their preferred position as it is an easy swap to make.

    would anyone else agree that flintoff should come into the england team (when he is ready obviously), as a bowler anyway. i would say his status as an all-rounder isnt particuarly justified, but he is a great bowler.

    if broad and swann were to make the team along with flintoff, this would provide an extremely long tail. ramps should be given his chance if the batsmen fail again, and although shah and bopara are impressive in county cricket, they never seem to cut it in test/international cricket as much.


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