England today announced their squad for the first Test against Zimbabwe at Lord's next Thursday and just over a week ago Michael Vaughan was an odds-on certainty to be in it.

But now he knows that when play begins the most he will be doing is monitoring it on television and nursing his broken hand.

Of all the young players that new England coach Duncan Fletcher has taken under his wing, none has done more to enhance his prospects of a long international career than the Yorkshire opening bat.

In South Africa last winter, Vaughan showed the stubbornness and determination to survive at Test level with some solid performances before amazing everyone out there by batting with great enterprise and flair to win the rain-hit final Test with his highest England score of 69.

Vaughan's fluency, of course, was no great surprise to Yorkshire followers who are well aware of his elegance.

They were, perhaps, more pleasantly taken aback by a level of consistency which has not always been apparent in county cricket.

With his winter successes behind him, Vaughan wanted to start the domestic first class season on a high note and he could hardly have batted better than in his seven-and-threequarter hour epic against Derbyshire last week which brought him 155 top quality runs.

But then disaster struck and a bone in Vaughan's left knuckle above his little finger was broken by a bouncer from Matthew Cassar who unexpectedly found a burst of energy towards the end of what had been a pretty tiring day.

The injury has sidelined Vaughan for at least three weeks but no sooner had an X-ray revealed the extent of the damage than he was planning his comeback.

"I cannot wait to return to the action and if I make it within three to four weeks I will be delighted," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether my first game back is for my club side, Sheffield Collegiate, or for Yorkshire or for anyone else, just so long as I am out in the middle and working my way back to full fitness."

"There is never a good time to get injured, but I suppose it could hardly have been worse what with being in such good nick and with the first Test just around the corner."

But cricket is a dangerous game and these things happen and you have just got to accept them.

"It was a brute of a ball from Cassar and I don't think I could have done anything to avoid it," added Vaughan.

"If he bowled it to me again I think the result would be similar."

Vaughan will be itching to get back in England's ranks for the second Test against Zimbabwe at the start of next month but the really important thing is that he is fully fit for the series against the West Indies which begins at Edgbaston on June 15.

Certainly he is exactly the sort of uncompromising player that Fletcher will want to have around for these tough encounters.

Although Vaughan's injury was unavoidable, it is not the first time he has been struck down at Headingley.

It happened previously in early June, 1997, the match after he had scored a dazzling 161 against Essex at Ilford to put himself in line for a possible Test call-up for that summer's Ashes series.

Yorkshire were playing Gloucestershire and Vaughan had made just 15 when a ball from Dewsbury-born left-armer Mike Smith lifted sharply off a length and broke a bone in his left wrist.

Initial medical opinion was that Vaughan would be out for around three weeks but in the event he did not return to championship cricket until July 31, so putting an end to his Test chances that year.

Vaughan's 155 against Derbyshire was his 16th first class century for Yorkshire and his first at Headingley - a statistic which adds weight to the opinion some hold that it is not the easiest ground in the world to bat on.