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Vaughan eyes third Test comeback

Even as Andrew Flintoff and Duncan Fletcher work out various combinations for the Ashes, Michael Vaughan has said he could be back to playing cricket in three weeks' time. What that means is that he would be available for selection for the third Test staring in Perth on December 14, and the two-day game against Western Australia from December 9.

Vaughan missed the entire summer season this year with a knee injury and Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flintoff have taken turns to lead the English side in his absence. Flintoff was finally chosen to captain England in the Ashes. The last time Vaughan represented England was in the Lahore Test last December.

This latest statement from Vaughan comes after his last month's prognosis where he had said that making it to Australia was a "long shot".

"I hope to be playing cricket again in three weeks," Vaughan said at the pre-Ashes lunch in London. "The knee is coming on well and by that time I hope to be able to put a call in and say 'I'm available to play'."

Vaughan mentioned he would be leaving for Australia a week on Saturday and would concentrate on rehabilitation only. "I won't be doing any commercial work when I'm there. Whether it takes two games, five games or a month to be match-fit is up to the selectors."

Geoff Miller, England national selector, said that he would be happy with Vaughan's comeback even if it means extra work for the selection panel. "If this chap gets fit again he creates a problem for the people picking the team. It's a problem which will be enjoyed."

Vaughan's and Marcus Trescothick's absence made way for Alastair Cook, who made an impressive debut in India, but also gave more opportunities to Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood to further cement their places in the side; all three are now competing for two batting spots in Australia, and one of the trio will have to sit out if England go with the five-bowler theory. On Tuesday, Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, had indicated that they could go in with five bowlers as he feared for the fitness of his captain Andrew Flintoff.

Dropping two out of Cook, Bell and Collingwood is hard enough. Add into the mix that Vaughan is still the official Ashes captain, and that would cause add further confusion to the leadership scenario. Vaughan, though, has been in touch with his stand-in. He says Flintoff had phoned him for advice. "I told him he had to be himself and try not to be someone he isn't," he said. "At the end of the day the players will follow him because he is Freddie."

Though not fit to play yet, Vaughan was still ready with the verbals. "Australia talk a great game but as a unit they are very, very vulnerable," he said. "They will want to murder us. They were hurt by what we did to them last year. So in their eyes, they will believe they will whitewash us. But I have a quiet confidence that we have a good chance of retaining the Ashes."