The immediate cricketing future of Michael Vaughan has again been thrown into doubt after wicketkeeper Paul Nixon let slip the injured England skipper was unlikely to play again on the tour of Australia.
Vaughan has missed the last four games of England's dismal one-day campaign with a hamstring injury, ironically suffered during England's only win of the tour in Hobart on January 16.
After aggravating the injury during batting practice in Perth on Sunday, Vaughan was forced to sit out England's 58-run defeat to the Kiwis at the WACA Ground on Tuesday night.
And with England's chances of reaching the tri-series final virtually nil - needing to win its next two games starting against Australia and New Zealand - Nixon said he fears Vaughan's tour could already be over.
"I actually had a bat with Michael in a centre wicket practice a few days ago, and his hamstring wasn't quite up to scratch," Nixon said.
"He struggled running, he is still having a lot of rehab work done, time in the swimming pool, a bit of acupuncture.
"But I don't think Vaughanie will be taking much part, I really don't, sadly. It is just too sore at the moment."
Although there is no official word from England's management on Vaughan's condition, the cautiousness with which James Anderson (back) and Jon Lewis (ankle) have been treated in the lead up to the World Cup could mean Vaughan leaving Australia without playing another game.
Speaking after scoring a career-best 49 in England's latest defeat, Nixon also defended another injury victim, Kevin Pietersen, who left the tour after breaking a rib in game one of the tri-series.
Former Australian captain and selector Allan Border criticised Pietersen for leaving too early, a claim that was refuted by Nixon.
"That is a big call from Mr Border... what more could he do?", Nixon said.
"He has got a broken rib, why aggravate that and make that even worse when you have got the World Cup coming up?
"Kevin has played very well out here, stood up and been counted and taken it to the Aussies and played beautifully. He was very keen to possibly get back for the finals."
And in an admission in contrast to his captain Andrew Flintoff, Nixon said England's fielding had not been up to scratch on the tour, highlighted on Tuesday by 22 wides and several misfields.
"The catching on the whole, has been slightly under par," Nixon said.
"The skies are very difficult out here, it is probably easier catching under lights, when it is dark, than it is in the sunshine.
"We have worked very hard on our fielding... we have gone through everything, but nothing is the same as the intensity of the game.
"They dipped (Tuesday) night in the first half-an-hour to 45 minutes, there were too many extras, there were too many wides, too many fumbled pick ups, too many overthrows."
I think he already is out for the tour.
Injured again.......didn't play much cricket at all while he was here in Australia.
Vaughan misses finals series
By Andy Withers
February 08, 2007
ENGLAND has been rocked by the news that captain Michael Vaughan will miss the limited-overs tri-nations finals series against Australia.
Vaughan experienced renewed hamstring soreness during England's victory over New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday.
Vaughan, who had not played for three weeks after injuring his right hamstring in a round-robin match Hobart, would return home on Saturday, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced today.
Vaughan required "one week to 10 days" to rehabilitate the injury, which was not expected to preclude his selection for England's World Cup squad, the ECB said.
Andrew Flintoff will resume the captaincy from Vaughan when England plays Australia in the opening tri-series final at Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow.