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February 28, 2006 2:00 am
England's cricketers must be pondering what could possibly happen next on their ill-fated tour of India after matters went from dire to almost catastrophic on Monday. Barely had it been announced that captain Michael Vaughan was returning to Britain because of his recurring knee injury than fast bowler Simon Jones injured a knee in the nets, which will mean him joining Vaughan on a flight home. A scan revealed the Glamorgan bowler had suffered minor cartilage damage and, as is the case with Vaughan, whether he rejoins the tour will depend on a specialist's assessment back in Britain.
Vaughan and Jones's withdrawals follow that of vice-captain Marcus Trescothick for personal reasons, not to mention a host of more minor injuries and illnesses that have hit the squad. As a result, Andrew Flintoff will make his debut as an England Test captain in the first of the three-match series that begins at Nagpur on Wednesday, despite having limited experience of leading sides. The all-rounder said that, as a result, he would not be returning to Britain for the birth of his second child, expected during the week of the third Test, after discussions with his wife Rachael. Flintoff, 28, said. ''I am going to stay for the three Test matches and then there will be a window until the one-dayers for me to go home and see the new-born baby."
Monday's news was particularly grim for Vaughan. The injury has plagued him since 2001, has required three operations and now threatens his international future.
''I do fear for him if he has to have further surgery in such a short period of time since the last one," said Dr Peter Gregory, England's chief medical officer. ''At the moment we don't know what it is so we don't know whether it requires surgery or indeed what is required."
Jones, too, has been dogged by injuries: he was kept out of international action for 16 months after shredding the ligaments in his right knee at Brisbane in 2002-03 and has just returned from ankle surgery last autumn. The absence of Vaughan and Trescothick means that Alastair Cook, 21, of Essex is likely to face a daunting debut opening the innings, while either Liam Plunkett or James Anderson will replace Jones should the tourists field a quartet of quick bowlers. Otherwise both, rather than one, of left-arm spinners Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell will make their Test debuts.
*Jockey Kieren Fallon has had his bail extended until July 3 as the City of London police continue an investigation into alleged race-fixing. The six-times champion jockey was due to answer bail next month along with weighing-room colleagues Robert Winston, Fergal Lynch, Darren Williams and Paul Bradley. Trainers Alan Berry and Karl Burke were also due to reappear but they will not have to answer bail until later in the year. All deny any wrongdoing.
Fallon was arrested in September 2004 and was reinterviewed last October before having his bail extended.
During the investigation more than 130 police officers raided 19 addresses across Suffolk, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Hertfordshire. The inquiry is examining allegations involving more than 80 races over two years.
*Tim Henman may no longer be British number one at tennis, but he enjoyed an impressive first-round victory in the Dubai Open with a 6-2 7-6 win over Feliciano Lopez. Henman, ranked 49th in the world, won the first set easily against the Spaniard, who is ranked 11 places higher, but had to fight hard in the second. The Briton was down 0-3 in the tie-break, but recovered and an erratic Lopez soon found himself facing three match points. Lopez saved all three, and another, before Henman closed out the match.
The win came as the ATP rankings confirmed Andrew Murray as the new British number one with Henman slipping to three. Murray, 18, who won his first ATP Tour title eight days ago, is ranked 42nd. Greg Rusedski remains as Britain's number two at 43, but he suffered a comprehensive defeat in Dubai by veteran Andre Agassi. Agassi, 35, and playing only his second tournament of the year after back and ankle injuries, won7-6 6-0.
*Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick will turn his attention to finding Sven-Göran Eriksson's successor after England's friendly against Uruguay on Wednesday. The FA board on Monday approved the terms of reference for the England head coach's job which Barwick set before them, but no shortlist was drawn up and no names were discussed.
The terms of reference included how the selection process will proceed, who will be involved in it and the length of contract the FA intend to offer the new manager.
Meanwhile Michael Owen insists he will be fit long before this summer's World Cup as his recovery from a fractured foot bone continues. At the launch of Umbro's new England away kit in Manchester, the England and Newcastle striker did not rule out a return to football against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final on March 22.
*Newcastle United midfielder Lee Bowyer on Monday denied breaching the Public Order Act in an on-the-pitch incident with team-mate Kieron Dyer. The 29-year-old entered the plea in his absence during a brief hearing at Newcastle magistrates court.
Bowyer's non-appearance in court had been agreed by all parties beforehand. He denies breaching the act during United's 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa in April last year.
Tony Glover, prosecuting, said a 30-minute pre-trial review was needed, where a number of issues, including the number of witnesses required, could be discussed. It will take place on April 18 at the same court.
*Birmingham City's Premiership survival hopes have been dealt a blow with Damien Johnson, Chris Sutton and Muzzy Izzet set to miss the club's next Premiership games against Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion because of injury. Johnson (knee), Sutton (hip and groin) and Izzet (calf) all had to be substituted during Saturday's single-goal victory over bottom-placed Sunderland.
Manager Steve Bruce, lamenting a season in which numerous players have been injured, said: "We are in a huge month and it looks like we are going to be without Sutton,Izzet and Johnson for the foreseeable future."
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