Injury worries for England ahead of 1st Test

England went through a light training session at Lord's Cricket Ground in London ahead of the first Test on Thursday against the West Indies.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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London:England enjoyed a light training session at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on Tuesday, with Thursday's opening test against the West Indies just two days away. The England selectors have a full squad to choose from, but still have a number of injury concerns. Batsman Mark Butcher is suffering from whiplash following a minor car crash on Monday, while talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will not be able to bowl, due to an ankle injury. The four-match test series between England and the West Indies begins at Lord's on Thursday. Pre-game headaches England coach Duncan Fletcher has assembled all the players he wants to - but that still doesn't mean that there aren't any pre-game headaches. The middle order might need a bit of a reshuffle - Graham Thorpe is fit and ready to take on the West Indian bowlers once again, but there is concern over the fitness of Mark Butcher, who would normally bat at number three. The Surrey left-hander was involved in a minor car crash on Monday and has a stiff neck due to the impact. Put that together with Andrew Flintoff's injured ankle and two of England's most important players are not altogether 100 per cent fit. However, all-rounder Flintoff will be happy to get into the side purely as a batsman. "Hopefully, I'm going to play as a batsman. Fortunately, I can do that, the bowling might not be there, but I can still bat. I regard myself as a batsman who bowls anyway and I'd like the chance to score a few runs if I do play," Andrew Flintoff said. And Flintoff thinks that the West Indies might now be a different proposition, compared to the side that were beaten 3-0 at home by England earlier this year. "Although we did beat them in the winter, I'm sure they want to hit us back hard. They want to do what we did to them in the winter and in England. I don't know about psychological advantage, I know that our dressing room's confident and we're feeling good because we're playing some good cricket," Flintoff said. Harmison rearing to go England do have their main strike weapon, Durham's Steve Harmison, ready to pick up where he left off in the West Indies. A career-best 7-12 at Sabina Park reduced Brian Lara's side to a humiliating 47 all out and Harmison - only 24 years old - now has 85 test wickets at an average of 23.77. No wonder he's keen to lock horns with the West Indian batsmen again. "I'm looking forward to it. After what happened in the West Indies I've got to be looking forward to it. I think first and foremost, the slate's wiped clean, however many wickets, whatever I did in the West Indies is gone now and I think we look to sort of start afresh and that's all I'm worried about," Harmison said. Without Flintoff's bowling, England will have to choose between Glamorgan's Simon Jones and Jimmy Anderson of Lancashire for the third seamer's spot behind Harmison and Yorkshire's Matthew Hoggard. The settled outfit that has won six of their last seven tests, propelling England to second place behind Australia in the ICC's national team rankings, might be undone by the absence of Butcher and a juggled bowling attack. That will be something West Indies captain Brian Lara will be keen to exploit on Thursday. (AP)

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