England announce their squads this morning for the tour of Pakistan in November and December to play three five-day Tests and five oneday internationals.

Most of the 16-man party for the Tests are automatic choices - the 12 who played in the Ashes series plus a reserve wicket-keeper, a second spinner and two pace bowlers.

The biggest problem concerns Simon Jones, whose right ankle injury could yet push the selectors and managers into taking an unwarranted gamble, instead of ensuring the complete sort of recovery which only surgery can guarantee.

His fitness test in the week prior to the Oval Test match was a joke, and it seems that the selectors were not impressed by the misleading optimistic bulletins fed to them by their medics.

This column pre-empted that test - curiously switched to Lord's behind closed doors instead of, as announced, at the Oval nets. The idea was that, 15 days after he limped out of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, he would try some gently running before bowling - and this after intensive daily sessions in an oxygen chamber, plus loads of physiotherapy.

He never got as far as the nets, simply because the bone spur on the top of his right ankle is a stress injury brought on by his bowling action, in which he drags the right foot in the delivery stride.

Again, the forecasts are optimistic, so expect his inclusion in the party. But, and it is a big but, he will have to be put through a full bowling test before the players fly to Pakistan in six weeks' time. Even several long net sessions prove little, because they are likely to be indoors with a different surface and footwear compared with outside.

The injury flared up after bowling 104 overs in threeanda-half Tests, and it will be surprising if he is never inconvenienced again. Andrew Flintoff's problem nine months ago concerned a spur in his left ankle, and he got away with it towards the end of the South African tour thanks to masking injections and strapping. Welltimed surgery did the trick, as it might do for Jones.

Remember that his stress flareup was such that he could not even walk properly at Trent Bridge, let alone take the field. Swelling and scar tissue can be removed by treatment - a bone spur cannot.

Assuming that he will be named today as one of the 12 who played this summer, the other four players concern a pace pair, a spinner and a second wicketkeeper. James Anderson has had a mixed summer with Lancashire which suggests the faults

which forced him out of the Test scene are still there.

He has taken 56 first class wickets but at 31 apiece. His call-up as a possible like-for-like replacement for Jones at the Oval suggests he will tour, as should Chris Tremlett who was picked in the first four squads. Gareth Batty has had a moderate summer with Worcestershire, but is the more likely spinner behind Ashley Giles as he will act as cover for the Warwickshire bowler rather than playing alongside him.

The different pitches in India early next year are more likely to call for Michael Vaughan needing two spinners, but not in Pakistan. Which leaves what should be the most vexed question of the lot - the choice of second wicketkeeper.

Duncan Fletcher and Vaughan are determined that the needs of the balance of the side call for a wicketkeeper who is almost good enough to be picked for his batting alone, regardless of the downside in the field.

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell was dismissive of Geraint Jones yesterday.

"He is not an international wicketkeeper, and how long can England afford someone who misses so many chances? It is bound to cost a match sooner or later."

But Jones receives such unswerving support that the man he replaced, Chris Read, is unlikely to be named today, because if he had to play in Pakistan, the balance of the side would switch to an extra batsman and a four man attack.

A like-for-like replacement would be Matthew Prior from Sussex, to complete this probable squad.

M Vaughan (capt), M Trescothick, A Strauss, I Bell, K Pietersen, P Collingwood, A Flintoff, G Jones, M Prior, A Giles, G Batty, M Hoggard, S Harmison, S Jones, J Anderson and C Tremlett.

The one-day squad will include roughly half of the full squad - Vaughan, Trescothick, Strauss, Pietersen, Flintoff, Owais Shah, G Jones, Prior, Collingwood, Giles, Harmison or Tremlett, together with Anderson, Vikram Solanki and, maybe, Darren Gough.