Cricket: England Hit as Gough Fails to Make First Test

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ENGLAND'S PLANS for winning the Ashes received a serious setback yesterday when Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher decided to rule Darren Gough out of the first Test against Australia by not selecting the fast bowler for their last warm-up game against Queensland which started today.

With England having a policy of not picking a player who is yet to successfully come through a first-class game, Gough no longer has the opportunity to push his case before Thursday's battle in Brisbane.

The good news for Gough and England, though, is that the selectors' decision is tactical. The 32-year-old, who when fit is undoubtedly England's premier bowler, has not suffered a recurrence of the injury to his right knee which forced him to have three operations last summer and he hopes to be fully fit for the second Test which starts on 21 November.

"This game has come a week too early," said Gough. "I've been off my full run since the WACA [last week] and bowled flat out in the nets for 25 minutes yesterday. I am fit enough to play in this game but the problem is we do not know how I will feel the following morning. Obviously, I want to play and the selectors want me to play but this is the right decision.

"With knee injuries you can have two good days, then one bad one and because there is no guarantee they have decided not to risk denying someone who might play some decent practice. England is more important than getting me on the field."

Despite Hussain and Fletcher's desperation to play the strongest side they can in the first Test this is the right decision, considering the Yorkshireman has not come through a first-class game unscathed for 14 months. Last summer Gough twice attempted to come back from injury too early and a third setback would not only finish his tour but possibly his career.

There is no doubt, though, that the talismanic figure will be missed. Australia has been a good hunting ground for Gough, where he is held in an almost legendary status by the crowd. …