Wed, Nov 22, 2006 - Page 18 News List

England rocked by injury to Ian Bell

AP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Just hours after England was buoyed by the arrival of former cricket captain Michael Vaughan, the visitors were hit with another injury scare -- this time a wrist ailment to Ian Bell.

Bell was hit on the left wrist while batting in the nets against seamer James Anderson at the Gabba yesterday, just two days before the start of the first Ashes Test against Australia.

"He's had ice treatment and will have a precautionary X-ray," a team spokesman said.

The X-ray later revealed no break but heavy bruising. He will undergo further treatment and be reassessed today by team medical officials.

On the Australian injury front, team officials announced yesterday that allrounder Shane Watson's hamstring strain would keep him out of the first Test. He will be replaced by Michael Clarke, who was drafted into the team last week as cover following Watson's injury.

"He [Watson] has been working hard over the last couple of days to be fit, but it became clear during this afternoon's training session that he would not be fit to start the match," team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said.

"He will continue his rehabilitation program with a view to being fit for the second Test," he said.

England opener Andrew Strauss admitted losing Bell would be critical to the side as it begins defense of the Ashes series it won back from Australia last year.

"It would be a blow, but we're talking hypothetical right now," Strauss said after England had its first workout at the Gabba, venue for the series opener. "The more I see, I don't think it's going to prevent him from playing. We're very hopeful he'll be able to play."

Middlesex batsman Ed Joyce could be Bell's replacement, but Joyce only arrived last Friday as a replacement for Marcus Trescothick, who returned to England after a recurrence of a stress-related illness.

Fast bowler Steve Harmison had to be left out of the England lineup for a tour match against South Australia state due to a side strain. But Harmison has worked out positively in the nets and is expected to be fit by Thursday.

Vaughan's arrival yesterday in Brisbane helped lift England's spirits -- not to mention the advice he can impart to the side, Strauss said.

"It would be stupid for us not to use his knowledge," Strauss said. "He was an instrumental factor in us winning the Ashes the last time around."

"He's got some pretty forthright views as to how best play against Australia, and we'll be chatting to him in the next day or two," Strauss said.

Although Vaughan was originally thought to be out for the series due to knee surgery -- which could possibly end his career -- he's now thought to be under consideration to play in the third Test in Perth early next month.

Strauss cautioned against building up Vaughan's return to the England lineup, or what England might do with the captaincy if he did. Andrew Flintoff was named captain for the Ashes series in Vaughan's absence.

"The main reason he's over here is for his own recuperation," Strauss said of Vaughan. "I don't think there is going to be a firm timetable, just a lot of work, and testing on his knee before he can even say he's ready."

On any change of captaincy, Strauss said: "It's just not something that has come up. I suppose it will only come up in the weeks ahead."

Strauss left little doubt that England was looking forward to the first ball being bowled on Thursday to start the five-Test series -- the most eagerly anticipated set of cricket matches in years.

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