Ian Bell survives injury scare on match eve
Ian Bell was taken for a scan on an injured left wrist after he was struck while batting in the nets ahead of the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai. A relieved England management confirmed that no fracture was revealed.
Bell was batting against the England batting coach, Graham Gooch, who was using the dog-thrower - or sidearm as Gooch prefers to call it - that has become a regular feature of England net sessions.
This is the first injury suffered by an England batsman against the dog-thrower, which is regarded by England's batsmen as highly beneficial and which has even begun to be adopted in England in club cricket.
The equipment, developed to throw balls for dogs to chase and fetch, enables throwdowns to be almost as hostile as fast-bowling deliveries in match conditions. The delivery was certainly hostile enough for Bell, who immediately abandoned his net session and headed off for a precautionary scan. Bell had his wrist bandaged and the result of the scan showed he had not suffered a fracture.
It is England's second self-inflicted injury in 24 hours. Stuart Broad was injured batting in the nets on Sunday when James Anderson produced an inswinging yorker that struck him on the boot and sent the first shiver through England's ranks ahead of the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai.
Broad inside-edged the delivery on to his left foot. He subsequently sat out the remainder of England's practice session with an ice pack on what a spokesman described as a "heavily bruised" foot. He was not sent for a scan and England are confident he will be able to bowl on Monday. Broad later posted on his Twitter account: "Bowling 2moro so no worries…"
Any injury involving Broad is sure to send tremors through the England camp. He has suffered three such setbacks in the last 14 months which severely curtailed his involvement in the Ashes, the World Cup and two limited-overs series against India. For an England side already missing Tim Bresnan, Broad's all-round skills are more precious than ever.
But on this occasion it appears the incident was little more than a scare. Certainly Broad's predicament gained him little sympathy from his fast bowling colleague Anderson. "It was a bad shot," Anderson said with a smile. "It's part and parcel of cricket. We play with a hard ball.
"I think he's fine though. It's not ideal preparation for him not to bowl today but he's done lots of bowling in the last couple of weeks and I don't think he'll be too worried. He's a strong character."
Anderson knows he and Broad face a tough workload over the coming weeks. While much of England's success in recent times has come on pitches that aid their faster bowlers, Anderson is not expecting conditions in Dubai to prove quite so helpful.
"We know the cricket won't be as exciting as it was in England," Anderson said. "We've taken 20 wickets in the warm-up games though, so that's been a confidence boost. But generally we know there aren't going to be clusters of wickets and we know the cricket could be quite attritional. The pitches are generally flat.
"The first hour is going to be crucial. We expect the new ball to do something and, if we can get any lateral movement later on when the ball reverses, that could be helpful. It's a huge challenge, though. We're going to have to use different skills to win here. Our role, as seamers, might be to tie up an end for Graeme Swann."
Such a view encourages the theory that England may yet field two spinners. Monty Panesar outbowled Swann in the warm-up matches and could take the place of either the third seamer or the sixth specialist batsman. Certainly Saqlain Mushtaq, speaking to PakPassion.net, felt England should make room for both spinners.
"I feel that on Asian tracks England need two spinners because of the heat, the humidity and the dry pitches that they will encounter," said Saqlain. "At the moment England are the best team in the world and are playing really good cricket.
"Not only do England have good spinners at their disposal but I think they can also play spin really well too, particularly with the help of Mushtaq Ahmed who has been providing valuable input to the England batsmen on how to combat the threat of spin bowling. They played Harbhajan Singh really well in England and they showed they can play against the spinners."
If Anderson knows England's plans, he is not letting on. "I'm sure that's something they're considering," he said. "But I'm not a selector. We've had success as a unit of three seamers and a spinner but there's no reason we couldn't have success doing things the other way."
Meanwhile Anderson dismissed any suggestion that the context of this series would make any difference to England's approach. The teams contested an increasingly bitter series in 2010 that subsequently ended under the cloud of corruption. But Anderson insists that while both teams have moved on, there will be no quarter given over the next few weeks.
"You can't lose any of your aggression," Anderson said. "Generally you try to let the ball do the talking but it's business as usual as far as we're concerned. This series is not more sensitive for us than any other. We've moved on from what happened in 2010. I think it's more of an issue for the media."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo