|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
December 8, 2009
Although the sun made an appearance in East London an injury cloud remains over James Anderson's knee ahead of the Test series against South Africa after he was ruled out of England's opening two-day match against an Invitational XI at Buffalo Park. While the squad made the most of an unexpected improvement in the weather, Anderson was restricted to batting duties as his right knee is monitored.
He is being lined up to take part in the second game from Friday after remaining behind in Durban following the one-day series to have further injections in his troublesome right knee. Numerous scans and a hefty supply of medical opinions have failed to pinpoint the source of the problem which has troubled him since early in the tour.
Although he wasn't wearing any strapping on his knee during the net session this is looking increasingly like a problem that will plague him throughout the trip. With Anderson being such a crucial part of England's plans for the Test matches Andy Flower, the coach, admitted there is concern about the ongoing problem. "Yes, there is. He's one of our main bowlers and he's our strike bowler," he said.
"He had some further injections into his knee to try and settle things down. He had them on Saturday so we are allowing time for those to work. He's had a good reaction so far, but won't play in the first two-day game then will play in the second one and hopefully be ready for the first Test."
With a heavy workload of four Tests in five weeks on the horizon England are taking a cautious approach with Anderson who bowled through discomfort during the one-day series, both from his knee and a suspected broken toe after he stubbed his foot on a chair.
"He could probably get through it [all four days] but we are trying to allow the injections to have an effect and he needs a little more time without any bowling and we are giving him that," Flower added. "Two days of middle of practice in the second game should be sufficient for Jimmy."
Someone who is likely to have all four days in action is Kevin Pietersen as he continues his battle for form. Having said on Monday that he wasn't shy of hard work, Pietersen lived up to his word by batting for more than 90 minutes in two separate stints. He started against throw downs from Graham Gooch, before facing up to some lively offerings from local bowlers keen to have a pop at him on a surface that was far from flat.
The forecast for the two-day matches is also looking far more positive although any further rain will put a prompt start in doubt. The pitch was covered for much of the morning by a tent made from tarpaulins while inside fans were helping dry the surface. However, the groundstaff were able to remove the covering to start work on the surface and ideal drying conditions were also helping an outfield that has taken a lot of water in recent days and was certainly on the boggy side in places.
The last thing England need is for the weather to seriously interrupt their four days of pre-Test preparation. For most of the players it has been more than three months since they played red-ball cricket and there isn't much time to adjust before the first Test at Centurion Park on December 16.
"This is unexpected good weather today, we thought it was going to be raining for most of the day so it's great for our guys to get into the nets outside," Flower said. "It's not been ideal but it's not the end of the world either. If we get three to three-and-a-half days of cricket out of the four that's what we really want."
Adil Rashid, the legspinner, won't play any part in the warm-up matches after he remained with the Performance Squad in Pretoria. Rashid was released from the one-day squad during the Cape Town match, along with Alastair Cook and Liam Plunkett, so that they could get some four-day cricket under their belts.
Flower explained the decision was made to leave Rashid at the camp because they want Graeme Swann to play all four days in East London, while the legspinner has the chance of another game with the Performance Squad. "If Adil had come down they would have needed to share the games so I think it was a good opportunity for him to play a four-day game up there on a good pitch and allow Swann four days of cricket here."
Rashid has had a difficult time so far in South Africa. His one over in the second Twenty20 went for 25 then he bowled three overs for 27 in the second ODI before being left out for a fit-again Swann. When he was released from the one-day party James Tredwell, the Kent offspinner, remained on stand-by which suggested Rashid had fallen down the pecking order. He will rejoin the Test squad when they reach Johannesburg ahead of the first Test but seems highly unlikely to play any part in the series.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?