England's tour plans hit by news of captain July 6, 2006

Vaughan definitely out of Ashes

Cricinfo staff

With Vaughan out of the 2006-07 Ashes, Australia are now 'red hot favourites' to regain the urn © Getty Images

After months of speculation as to his availability Michael Vaughan, the England captain, has been ruled out of England's tour of Australia in November. Vaughan, who last year led England to their first Ashes victory since 1986-87, had a fourth operation on his knee earlier this week but surgery revealed greater damage than had earlier been believed.

Vaughan underwent arthroscopic surgery during which the surgeon carried out micro-fracturing to a worn joint surface within the knee. However following the operation, the specialist advised that rehabilitation must be taken slowly in order to give the surgery the best chance of success. His aim is to be fit and available for selection for the 2007 World Cup in February.

Vaughan has not played for England since being forced to return home early from the tour of India in March. He attempted a comeback for Yorkshire last month, raising hopes that he could return to captain England this summer, but the injury flared up again and he was advised that further surgery was necessary.

A dark cloud now hangs over the future of his playing career; his knee has caused him to miss matches and entire series throughout his career. Though surgery has in the past provided a temporary fix, aged 31 there is only so much doctors can do. The injury first flared up in the 2001 Ashes series in England, which he missed. Three years later, twisting his knee in the nets, he was unavailable to play against New Zealand and, most recently in Pakistan, it was twisted while he ran between the wickets. David Graveney, the England chairman of selectors, calmed fears that this latest setback could end his career. "There is no suggestion that Michael Vaughan's career is under threat," he told BBC Radio this morning.

Andrew Flintoff, who was named stand-in captain during England's tour of India, remains a doubt for the Pakistan series; Andrew Strauss was named his replacement for the first Test at Lord's which gets underway a week today.

Following the news that Vaughan had been ruled out of the Ashes, William Hill, the bookmakers, lengthened the price of England winning the series from 3/1 to 4/1 and Australia were shortened from 8/11 to 1/3. A drawn series is now offered at 5/1.

"You cannot underestimate how important Michael Vaughan's contribution was with both the bat and as an inspired captain," Rupert Adams, a spokesman for William Hill, commented.

"Without him you have to say that Australia are now the red hot favourites to win back the Ashes at the first time of asking and it will take some heroic performances for England to return with the Ashes in their luggage."