|Player:||MP Vaughan, J Lewis, CT Tremlett, A Flintoff, JM Anderson, SCJ Broad, A Symonds, KP Pietersen, DAG Fletcher, MB Loye, GB Hogg, SR Clark, CL White, SW Tait, SR Watson|
|Event:||Commonwealth Bank Series 2006/07|
DateLine: 8th February 2007
A resurgent England will again sweat on the fitness of inspirational captain Michael Vaughan for Friday's first triangular series final against Australia at the MCG. Reports that Vaughan's hamstring injury was still troubling him came as England also revealed that fast bowling duo Jon Lewis and Chris Tremlett were heading home because of injury. Few expected the English to make the tri-series finals after their horror tour, during which they have lost all five Test matches and all limited-overs games against the Australians, bar their unexpected win on February 2. But Vaughan's astute leadership in the final qualifying game against New Zealand on Tuesday lifted them off the canvas and gave them the chance to gain some revenge for their Ashes whitewash in the best-of-three finals series. However, Vaughan, who had missed the previous five games because of a hamstring strain, admitted he felt the injury in the field during the latter stages of the New Zealand innings. Vaughan said he expected to play on Friday, but conceded his fitness was an issue. "It's a little touch and go," he said here on Tuesday. "I'll work with (physio) Dean (Conway) and hopefully be fine for Friday." If Vaughan is unavailable it will be a huge blow to the English, even though he made a duck against the Black Caps. His presence as a captain steadied the English when they were under pressure, with his bowling changes pivotal to the result, and also allowed allrounder Andrew Flintoff the freedom to concentrate on his bowling. Should Vaughan be unavailable, Flintoff would have to take over the reins again. The loss of Lewis with a persistent Achilles problem is a significant blow, as he had been in good form before injury struck. He last played on January 23 against New Zealand. Tremlett has a back injury. England coach Duncan Fletcher said the decision to send Lewis home was precautionary ahead of the World Cup. "Jon Lewis was one of those ones where we were not prepared to risk it with injuries to the bowlers, Jimmy Anderson being injured," Fletcher said on British radio. "We didn't want to risk it any further so he is going to go back. It is around that Achilles area so they are going to go back and have a really good look at it in the UK." Pace bowler Stuart Broad, the son of former Test opener Chris, will join the squad for the finals, while the English have ruled out a return by injured batsman Kevin Pietersen. Vaughan's injury status aside, the English take plenty of momentum into the finals. After winning just eight of their previous 33 one-day games, they thrashed Australia in Sydney before the win over the Black Caps, and the home side will be without star allrounder Andrew Symonds. Vaughan said the win over Australia in Sydney had been a massive boost to team morale and he firmly believes the English can end a disastrous tour on an unexpectedly high note by upsetting the home side.
"I think the lads have to take the last two performances and take the momentum from the last two games," he said. "If we can reproduce that sort of performance then we can put Australia under pressure. We want to win the finals and we want to end the tour on a good note." He said the English, who have also been lifted by the form of Liam Plunkett with the ball, were capable of improving greatly on their performance against New Zealand. "We were patchy at times, which is even more of a positive," he said. "We've beaten a very good New Zealand team having not played our best cricket." Should Vaughan miss out, opener Mal Loye would be expected to slot back into the side at the top of the order. With Symonds missing, Australia have turned to injury-prone allrounder Shane Watson, who will be under great pressure to both perform and prove his fitness as the World Cup looms. Bowlers Shaun Tait and Stuart Clark have been dropped from the Australian squad, with Watson's return offering another pace bowling option. Spinner Brad Hogg has been retained and could play in Melbourne if conditions suit, with allrounder Cameron White struggling to deliver with his leg-spinners. Having made an unbeaten 99 against the Black Caps, the unlucky Brad Hodge could be squeezed out by the return of Watson. Possible teams: Australia - Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath and Mitchell Johnson. England - Michael Vaughan (capt), Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Strauss, Andrew Flintoff, James Dalrymple, Paul Nixon, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood and Monty Panesar.