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March 24, 2012
Stuart Broad did not bowl during England's first training session in Galle to protect an ankle injury he picked up earlier in the tour but is still expected to be available for the first Test against Sri Lanka which starts on Monday.
Broad tripped on a boundary rope shortly before the first warm-up match against a President's XI in Colombo and was pulled out of the game. However, he was part of the team for the second practice game where he sent down 23 overs against the Sri Lanka Development XI for four wickets and was the most impressive of England's bowlers.
"He just wanted an extra day off from bowling after the game he played," James Anderson, his new-ball partner, said. "He bowled quite a few overs in the last game and he's just giving his ankle a little bit of extra time to recover."
However, if England maintain the balance of playing two quicks and two spinners with which they completed the series against Pakistan in the UAE, they cannot afford any doubts over one of the pacemen. England are not short of fast-bowling reserves -- Steven Finn has played both warm-up matches and Tim Bresnan is also in the squad -- but Broad has become an integral part of the team after recapturing his form against India last year. Since the first Test of that series, at Lord's, he has taken 38 wickets at 16.10 in seven matches.
The make-up of England team is one of the major talking points heading into the series, particularly following a side strain to Ravi Bopara which could likely prevent him from bowling in either of the two Tests. He is still expected to return to the side at No. 6 to replace the dropped Eoin Morgan, but in energy-sapping conditions the thought of having a better-than-part-time fifth-bowling option will be one that Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower will continue to ponder.
"It is going be a difficult decision with Ravi not being able to bowl," Anderson admitted. "It's always difficult going in with just two seamers and two spinners and not having a fifth bowling option. Trotty and KP can bowl a few overs but the decision the selectors have to make is whether they want the fifth bowler to be someone who is more capable with the ball."
England do have a couple of ways to balance the side if they so wish; a Test debut for Samit Patel at No. 6 or a recall for Bresnan with Matt Prior moving up the order one place. The latter would be a positive statement to make at the start of the short series but remains a long shot with Strauss and Flower reluctant to play five frontline bowlers. Patel, meanwhile, showed form with the bat in the last warm-up game with 72 off 78 balls but in 18 overs during the first innings conceded four-and-a-half an over and in the second innings seven.
The least likely route England seem like taking is dropping a spinner to accommodate a third seamer after the success of Monty Panesar in the UAE. "We started going with two seamers and two spinners in the UAE and it worked well for us. Hopefully we can continue with that form," Anderson said. "It makes things slightly different for the quicks because in this heat the spells will be shorter than we're used to. It puts more focus on us to be right on the money every ball."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala