Injury problems send Graeme Swann home
Graeme Swann has been forced out of the one-day series against Australia by injury as England's casualty list continues to grow. He picked up a knee problem during the first Twenty20 and has now suffered a back strain and will be returning to the UK to recover for next month's World Cup.
Swann played the second T20 and first one-day international in Melbourne but has missed the last two matches. It had been hoped he would be able to take part towards the end of the series, but a back spasm a couple of days ago added to his problems, leaving England another key bowler short as they aim to bounce back from 3-0 down.
"It's frustrating to return home from the tour early but the priority for me now is the World Cup and getting my body right so that I am able to play an important role for England throughout the tournament," Swann said. "I will be following the rest of the series and hope to see England put in some positive performances over the next fortnight. I've had the time of my life over here and bringing back the Ashes is something that will always stay with me."
Andy Flower, the England team director, said Swann would be taking the earliest flight home. "He's unfortunately got a strain in his lower back and that allied with his knee problem means it's best for him to go home and get ready for the World Cup now," Flower said.
It leaves England with Michael Yardy and James Tredwell to fill the spin roles for the remainder of the series but neither offer the attacking option of Swann and his absence has been felt during the middle overs.
"It's a big blow, he's an important part of our side," Flower said. "He's a world-class performer and full of confidence after the Ashes. But these things happen, we are coming towards the end of a long, hard tour and certainly the physical challenges are starting to take their toll."
Swann is the second player to fly home from the one-day series after Tim Bresnan picked up a calf strain in Hobart. England have not been able to field their first-choice attack at any stage in the limited-overs games due to Stuart Broad's absence and James Anderson being rested. Anderson, though, is available for the Adelaide match on Wednesday and will provide valuable experience as England aim to stay in the series.
Flower, meanwhile, has looked upon the loss of his main bowlers as a valuable chance to give experience to some younger and less experienced one-day players. One of the topics Flower has often mentioned is the need to have more than just a first eleven that is good enough because of the demanding international schedules.
"One of the areas I've been really happy with on this tour is the fact that some of our fringe players have come in and done very well," he said. "People like Bresnan in the Tests who did superbly, Tremlett the same. These guys stepped into the breach and I think we've seen Shahzad grow in the first three limited-overs games.
"I think they are great opportunities for some of our fringe players now. With the schedules we are given we are going to need a squad in which we can certainly rotate fast bowlers, because they are the ones at greatest risk of injury."
England's major issue has been a lack of consistency from the batsmen although Kevin Pietersen is fit again which will provide some extra power to the middle order. His replacement in Sydney, Paul Collingwood, continued to struggle with 1 and Flower admitted he was concerned but hinted at retaining him.
"Yes, of course we are. And he is," Flower said. "But we need him to be in form for the World Cup and again there's a good opportunity tomorrow for him to get that form."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo