England aim to build on Caribbean triumph

Associated Press

London, May 19:

Having led England to a 3-0 series victory over the West Indies, Michael Vaughan misses out on the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on Thursday. The Yorkshire opener twisted his right knee in the nets on Monday and was ruled out of the game after a fitness Test at the home of English cricket on Wednesday. Marcus Trescothick, his lefthanded opening partner, takes over as captain and England still has to decide who will go out to bat with him. The alternatives are Andrew Strauss of Middlesex and Surrey veteran Mark Butcher, who usually goes in at No 3.

Vaughan’s absence is a blow to an England team which is bidding to maintain its revival. Under coach Duncan Fletcher, England outplayed the West Indies in the Caribbean and was denied a sweep by Brian Lara’s world record 400 not out in the final Test at Antigua.

The team’s young pace attack of Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff with James Anderson in reserve dominated the West Indies batting lineup until Lara’s heroics at the end.

Now it is aiming to do the same to New Zealand, which scored a 2-1 series victory in England on its last appearance here five years ago. Although Trescothick has led England in one-day games, this is his first at Test level. “It is an honour,” the Somerset opener said. “It is a huge job for me at the home of cricket for the first test of the summer. Michael not being around leaves a major hole and it is a disappointment he is not leading the side out. But we will have to get over that quickly.”

If the selectors go for 27-year-old Strauss, it will signal they want to add new blood to an experienced batting lineup which also has veterans Butcher, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe. But it would probably mean no place for Durham’s Paul Collingwood at No 6.

Vaughan, who has escaped knee ligament damage, hopes to be back for the second Test at Headingley in two weeks time. Stephen Fleming’s New Zealand team comes off a 1-1 series tie with South Africa on home turf, the South Africans coming back to win the third Test by six wickets at Wellington.

The Kiwis captain has declared himself fit after an abdominal strain but his team is weakened by the absence of strike bowler Shane Bond who is still suffering from a back injury. New Zealand coach John Bracewell said that Fleming would move up from No 3 to partner Mark Richardson as opener. But he did not think that would put more pressure on his captain, who is rated one of the best leaders in Test cricket. “It is not necessarily a rejigged batting order,” Bracewell said. “We have made one adjustment really, moving Stephen up one place to open. I don’t think there is a lot of difference between one and three anyway. Number three can be in within one ball of the start.” “Stephen feels at home in the opening position, in that he has become quite familiar with it at one-day level,” Bracewell said. “He is used to getting his pads on ready to face the first ball.”