ENGLAND new boy Anthony McGrath is almost certain to deputise for Andrew Flintoff in the first Test at Lord's tomorrow - but pleaded not to be dubbed an all-rounder.

Yorkshire captain McGrath, 27, was called up for the first international of the summer, and appears set to bat at number seven, complimenting that with some medium pace after Flintoff today dropped out of the 13-man party because of a compressed nerve in his right shoulder.

McGrath was earmarked for the role in Flintoff's absence despite only having taken 40 first-class wickets in a nine-year career.

Nearly half of those came last season when a combination of England call-ups and injuries decimated Yorkshire's attack and encouraged Darren Lehmann, the former captain, to turn to McGrath's seam-up style.

In fact, he topped the county's bowling averages, but nevertheless warned: "I basically only started bowling a couple of years ago because we had so many injuries and started in the nets where people like Darren Gough and Craig White helped me along.

"Then last year I bowled more and more, but by no means am I an all-rounder, I am just a batsman who can fiddle a few overs.

"Without injuries and England call-ups, I might not have bowled an over, but circumstances dictated, I did a fairly good job and from there I bowled more and more."

A similar pattern has developed this season with McGrath in charge when Matthew Hoggard and Chris Silverwood were both forced out of the Yorkshire attack. His nagging line has been used more regularly in limited-overs cricket, however.

"I am not too fast, but I am pretty accurate and I just try and build pressure, keeping it tight so the other guys can pick the wickets up," said McGrath, twice an England 'A' tourist in the mid-1990s.

When he was chosen to tour Pakistan and Zimbabwe in 1995-96 and Australia 12 months later, McGrath bowled occasional off-spin.

It was on his first trip, in fact, that McGrath scored the first of his nine first-class hundreds.

England's management will be hoping he is fit for the second Test at Chester-le-Street in a fortnight.

Yorkshire seamer Hoggard, meanwhile, came through practice following his abdominal strain, a rare positive for Nasser Hussain's men on the injury front although he was being monitored again today.

Updated: 12:08 Wednesday, May 21, 2003