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Flintoff to lead England in Ashes, ICC Champions Trophy

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Andrew Flintoff has beaten off competition from Andrew Strauss to captain England in the defence of the Ashes series in Australia, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced when naming the squad here on Tuesday.

Lancashire all-rounder Flintoff, who will also captain England in next month’s ICC Champions Trophy tournament in India, has not played international cricket since the end of the home Sri Lanka Test series in June because of a left ankle injury.

In his absence Strauss led England in a 5-0 One-day International (ODI) series defeat by Sri Lanka, a 3-0 Test series win against Pakistan and a drawn 2-2 ODI campaign against Pakistan concluded on Sunday.

Flintoff, 28, and Strauss were vying for the captaincy in the absence of last year’s Ashes-winning skipper Michael Vaughan, who has been ruled out of the Australia tour with a recurrence of a longstanding knee injury.

“We have had to make a very tough decision in choosing between Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Strauss for the captaincy and we were fortunate to have two such outstanding candidates available to us in Michael Vaughan’s absence,” said England’s chairman of selectors, David Graveney.

“Ultimately, we took the view that Andrew Flintoff had demonstrated excellent leadership skills during a difficult tour of India earlier this year (where England achieved a creditable 1-1 Test series draw), that he was the man in possession and deserved a further opportunity to continue as captain,” he added.

Flintoff will lead an unusually large party to Australia. As well as the 16-man squad, a further 14 players will be based in Perth on standby.

The captain, the hero of last year’s 2-1 Ashes success, is not the only currently unfit player in the squad.

Left-arm spinner Ashley Gules is included despite having been ruled out for the whole of this English season with hip and hernia injuries, although his inclusion is subject to him proving his fitness before the team arrive in Australia in November.

Lancashire pace bowler James Anderson, out all season with a back injury was also included while Durham quick Liam Plunkett has made it into the main squad despite a side strain in the second half of the season.

Strike fast bowler Stephen Harmison is also included after missing the ODIs against Pakistan with a side injury.

Meanwhile, senior opening batsman Marcus Trescothick made the 16-man squad despite the stress-related illness which forced him to miss the Champions Trophy event.

But there was no place for Glamorgan quick Simon Jones, one pf the heroes of last year’s Ashes where his reverse-swing bowling played an important part in England’s 2-1 victory. The Welshman has been out all season with a knee injury and has been advised not to return to first-class cricket until the 2007 English season.

“Simon recently travelled to America for a re-assessment of the left knee which was operated on earlier in the summer by a specialist in Colorado,” explained ECB Chief Medical Officer Dr Peter Gregory. “He underwent an arthroscopy which showed that the knee has responded well to the micro-fracturing treatment designed to repair the joint surface.

“The specialist is encouraged by Simon’s progress but he has advised that any return to competitive cricket should be delayed until next season in order to give the surgery the best chance of succeeding,” Gregory added.

England’s squad contains only four players — Giles, Trescothick, Matthew Hoggard and Harmison — who played in the final Test of the previous Ashes tour at Sydney.

Despite reports claiming Vaughan would shadow the squad out in Australia and continue his rehabilitation there, the ECB have also confirmed he will remain in England and not travel out to Australia until he is ready for training.

England squads

Squad for Ashes: Andrew Flintoff (captain), Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Chris Read (wicket-keeper), Geraint Jones (wicket-keeper), Ashley Giles, Monty Panesar, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett and James Anderson.

Squad for ICC Champions Trophy: Andrew Flintoff (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Rikki Clarke, Paul Collingwood, James Dalrymple, Stephen Harmison, Ed Joyce, Sajid Mahmood, Jon Lewis, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Read, Andrew Strauss and Michael Yardy.

England tour of Australia 2006-07:

Fixtures for Ashes:

November 10: v Prime Minister’s XI, Canberra; November 12-14: v New South Wales, Sydney; November 17-19: v South Australia, Adelaide; November 23-27: First Test, Brisbane; December 1-5: Second Test, Adelaide; December 9-10: v Western Australia, Perth; December 14-18: Third Test, Perth; December 26-30: Fourth Test, Melbourne; January 2-6: Fifth Test, Sydney

Limited Overs Fixtures:

January 9: Twenty20 International, Sydney; January 12: Tri-series ODI v Australia, Melbourne; January 16: Tri-series ODI v New Zealand, Hobart; January 19: Tri-series ODI v Australia, Brisbane; January 23: Tri-series ODI v New Zealand, Adelaide; January 26: Tri-series ODI v Australia, Adelaide; January 30: Tri-series ODI v New Zealand, Perth; February 2: Tri-series ODI v Australia, Sydney; February 6: Tri-series ODI v New Zealand, Brisbane; February 9: First Tri-series final, Melbourne; February 11: Second Tri-series final, Sydney; February 13: Third Tri-series final (if needed), Brisbane.

Source:The News

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