Andrew Flintoff has made the England selectors' decision for them by being ruled out of the first Test against New Zealand with a side strain.
The question of whether to play the injury-prone all-rounder in the opener against the Black Caps next week has been the cause of much debate - but Flintoff will now be sidelined for the first two Tests with his latest setback.
Flintoff has been in good form with the ball for Lancashire since making his latest comeback from ankle surgery before Christmas, but a series of low scores with the bat meant his selection to face the Kiwis was not automatic.
"Andrew has been ruled unavailable for selection for the opening two Test matches against New Zealand and will be reassessed during the course of the Test series whilst receiving ongoing treatment," the ECB said in a statement.
"This is a relatively common injury for fast bowlers but is in no way related to the left ankle injury Andrew has suffered from in recent times."
Flintoff added: "Obviously I'm bitterly disappointed to be unavailable for Test selection due to this injury as I'm really enjoying my cricket with Lancashire and feel my bowling has been improving with each match.
"I've put in a lot of hard work to get to this point after ankle surgery last year and I know I can overcome what isn't a significant injury.
"It's very frustrating to have picked up an injury at this time but I want nothing more than to return to the England side and will continue to do everything required to make myself available for selection."
It now seems certain the selectors will play six batsmen and four bowlers at Lord's, with wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose batting at number seven.
A 12-man squad is expected to be named on Sunday.