Haddin out with broken finger
Australia were dealt a major blow just moments before the scheduled start of play with Brad Haddin forced out of the side with a fractured left ring finger and Graham Manou called in for his Test debut. Haddin sustained the injury while warming-up around the time of the coin toss, and his withdrawal will leave the Australians without the services of their first-choice wicketkeeper and leading run-scorer in this Ashes series.
"He was catching the fast bowlers at the end of the warm up," said Tim Nielsen, the Australian coach. "Knowing we were batting, he stayed out to catch a few extra balls, one dipped a bit and hit him on the end of the left ring finger. He's got a fracture in the last part of his finger. At this stage we'll send the pictures off to Australia tonight. When the doctor had a look, it was unstable, a real risk that if he played it was broken worse."
The injury invited comparisons to Glenn McGrath's infamous ankle sprain at this very ground four years ago, which many felt changed the course of the entire Ashes series. On that occasion, Haddin was tossing a rugby ball with McGrath moments prior to his game-ending stumble, but this time it was the Australian wicketkeeper forced out with a potentially series-ending injury.
England graciously spared the Australians a major dilemma by allowing them to substitute Haddin with Manou. Ricky Ponting, had already submitted the Australian team sheet, which included Haddin's name, and team manager Steve Bernard sought permission from England team director Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss, as well as Jeff Crowe, the match referee to make the replacement. All acquiesced to the request.
"The first thing I thought was, 'How do we get to the match referee and then the English captain when they're probably walking out on the field to allow us to change the keeper?'" Nielsen said. "It was a fine gesture. We did it all honestly. We used the English team doctor to assess Brad's finger. The process went really well and for the game's sake there are eleven fit blokes on each team."
Manou, 30, has played 88 first class games for South Australia, scoring 3.319 runs at 24.76 with the bat and claiming 299 dismissals. Haddin, meanwhile, is the second highest run scorer in the current series with 229 at 76.33, trailing only Strauss. He has endured a difficult series with the gloves, however, spilling several chances and conceding 53 byes at Sophia Gardens and Lord's.
Haddin is no stranger to broken fingers, fracturing a digit on his right hand in the first hour of his Test debut at Sabina Park last year. On that occasion, Haddin played through the pain in all three Tests against West Indies, before being rested for the limited overs portion of the Caribbean tour. He had played 17 consecutive Tests prior to his eleventh hour withdrawal on Thursday.
"He was pretty keen to play," Nielsen said. "We were concerned if he was going to play he would have had to have it injected pretty much every session because it was a pretty significant crack. The other issue is that it's a fracture at the moment, so healing will be better than if it's totally broken off. He could have made it worse if he kept. It's hard to start a game knowing you're going to get it shot up every two hours."
Manou becomes Australia's 411st Test player, and the first debutant since Bryce McGain's ill-fated appearace in Cape Town four months ago. Given the haste of his inclusion into the side, the Australians delayed the ceremonial presentation of his baggy green until Friday.
"It was literally to the last minute," Nielsen said. "Strauss was good enough to grant permission and from there is was a case of asking Graham to put the drinks down and get his keeping gloves out. "
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo. Peter English is Australasian editor of Cricinfo.