In an unprecedented move in English cricket, Duncan Fletcher yesterday confirmed that James Anderson and Liam Plunkett - both of whom have been injured this season - could play in the final round of Championship matches for counties other than their own to assess their fitness ahead of England's tour of Australia.
Lancashire, still gunning for the title, could not be expected to field a match-unfit Anderson; nor Durham to select Plunkett in their relegation match against Yorkshire. Instead, other counties who have nothing at stake, will be asked to field the two players which is essentially an extension of the loan system; Oliver Newby, Lancashire's fast bowler, played for Nottinghamshire on loan last year while Alamgir Sheriyar, contracted to Kent, was lent to Worcestershire.
The move clearly hints that Fletcher wants both players in his squad of 16 to tour Australia and the coach, speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, confirmed there would be a number of reserves stationed at Perth, with two coaching staff. Fletcher and the England selectors will announce their Ashes squad on Tuesday, before which the likely England players will all undergo a medical at Loughbourgh on Monday.
As ever, Fletcher remains tight-lipped and noncommittal regarding the England captaincy, although he did express his long-standing doubt over the immense pressure captaincy would put on Andrew Flintoff. "It's always been my concern that it's a lot to ask."
Possible England squad
Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Ashley Giles, Monty Panesar, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett and James Anderson.