Buttler suffers hand injury
Jos Buttler could miss Friday's game between England and England Lions after sustaining an injury to his left hand. Buttler, the 21-year-old Somerset batsman, was called up to England's ODI squad for the first time for the series against Pakistan which begins on February 13.
Buttler required stitches after splitting the webbing on his hand in Sri Lanka and took a peripheral part in training on Thursday. England will make a decision on his fitness on Friday morning.
There was more encouraging news from Tim Bresnan. He rejoined the party on Sunday having earlier been forced home to continue rehabilitation following elbow surgery. He batted and bowled in the nets without any obvious signs of discomfort. While Bresnan looked some way short of his best with the ball, he should have the opportunity to continue his recovery in Friday's match. The game will be played in daylight, despite the fact that the ODI and the T20I series will be contested over day/night games.
Buttler's injury could provide an opportunity for another player to impress. After his excellent form on the Lions tour of Sri Lanka, where he scored two centuries, Buttler has an excellent opportunity to win the No. 6 position in the ODI team. But if he is unavailable it will give Ravi Bopara, who is hitting the ball as well as anyone in the nets, and Jonny Bairstow, a chance. Bopara also offers the benefit of his medium-pace bowling.
Buttler's setback is another reminder of the small twists of fate that can sometimes define a career. If anyone knows about the thin margins between success and failure it is surely Craig Kieswetter. It was on the same ground in Abu Dhabi two years ago, the day after he qualified to represent England, that Kieswetter seized his chance to impress.
Representing the Lions against the England side, Kieswetter thumped 81 to help his side win the game. Three days later he was called-up to the senior squad and barely a week after that he made his ODI debut as an opening batsman. Within another week he had registered his maiden ODI century.
But it so nearly did not happen. Had Stuart Broad, at mid off, held on to the most straightforward of chances when Kieswetter had scored four in that Lions game, his career path might have been very different.
Such history is sure to add an edge to a game that, in years gone by, might have offered little intensity. While Andy Flower has said that there will be no additions to the senior squad, few of the England limited-overs team are certain of their places at present. England lost their last five ODIs after all.
"It's obviously a big game for both sides," Kieswetter said. "I was fortunate enough to play in one of these games two years ago and it kind of kick-started my international career. Two weeks later I was playing an ODI for England. It gives the Lions guys a great opportunity to showcase their talents in front of Andy Flower and the selectors. It is a great challenge to take on the ODI side and prove a point to them as well.
"We're trying to find the right squad for that World Cup and to bed all the players in - and that starts with this series. It's a great opportunity for younger, newer players to come in and help us win this series. There is obviously competition for places everywhere: batters, bowlers, wicketkeepers. It's healthy. It pushes all the players to strive harder, practise better and put in better performances on the field. It will be quite competitive. Both teams will be going out there with points to prove, playing some really tough cricket and trying to win the game."
Kieswetter faces a different challenge now. Having come to the attention of England as a middle-order batsman at Somerset, he has spent two years learning his trade at the top of the order and has opened the batting in all 28 of his ODIs to date. He will now bat at No. 5 with Kevin Pietersen moving up to open the innings.
Graeme Hick once said: "There's an art to batting at No. 5 in limited-overs cricket; but it's a dull art." In these days of powerplays and increased expectations, that might not be as true as it once was. But Kieswetter still faces something of a learning curve as he adapts to a new challenge in international cricket.
"It's a new role for me at international level," Kieswetter said. "But when I first started playing professional cricket for Somerset I batted in the middle order. It's a challenge I'm really looking forward to. It's obviously a little bit different but I hope my skills can help better the side in that area. The third powerplay and the last 10 overs are becoming more and more important."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo