Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2014

Rankin 'cramp' raises fitness concerns


Mystery surrounded the fitness of Boyd Rankin following the first day's play in Sydney after the fast bowler was twice forced from the pitch on his first day as a Test cricketer.

Rankin, who retired from Irish cricket at the end of the 2012 to concentrate on playing Test cricket for England, appeared to have suffered a hamstring strain after bowling the first delivery of his ninth over but, after leaving the field for treatment, was able to resume about 90 minutes later. He then managed just one more delivery before a recurrence of the problem forced him off again in obvious pain and clutching his left hamstring.

But after a scan showed no injury, the England camp claimed Rankin had simply been suffering from cramp and should be fit to resume bowling duties in the second innings.

Such a scenario would raise questions about Rankin's physical condition going into the game. While the weather in Sydney was warm - it reached 27 degrees at one stage in the afternoon - it was some way below the extremes experienced in Perth or in Alice Springs.

It is possible that nerves could have played a part. The 29-year-old Rankin has endured a long journey to the Test environment and knows, coming into a struggling team at the end of a series, that he may not enjoy many opportunities to prove his worth at this level. A somewhat shy, quietly spoken man from a rural background, it is also possible that tension played a part, or that the pain has some psychosomatic origin. He has been known to experience similar problems with his left foot after suffering from a stress fracture in it several years ago.

The schedule may also be relevant. While Rankin has bowled almost every day in the nets, he has not played a match since the end of November, when he delivered 14.5 overs during the game in Alice Springs. It may be that he came into this game simply lacking match fitness.

While Rankin was monitored by the England medical team ahead of play after reporting general stiffness, there was no specific concern about his hamstring and he was subsequently cleared to play.

Rankin was one of three tall fast bowlers included in the England squad for this series. But despite great expectations when the tour started, none of Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett or Rankin will look back on the trip with much joy. While Tremlett played in Brisbane, Finn has failed to break into the team and Rankin's debut has so far not gone as he would have envisaged. It would take him two years, from the moment of his last England appearance, to re-qualify for Ireland if he ever chose to do so.

Rankin has gained a reputation as one of the most hostile bowlers in county cricket over recent years. While a succession of injury problems have at times delayed his development, he has benefited from greater fitness and strength over recent years and was praised by Marcus Trescothick as being as good a fast bowler as he faced in the 2011 season.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on January 4, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    Finn should have played all 5 tests. He's the best and quickest bowler we've got. 90 Test wickets at 29!

  • ESPN on January 4, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    Mambo man - he thought about qualifying for Oz but they were the worst team in world cricket when he was qualifying

  • I on January 4, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    @RednWhiteArmy Yep, it's really £unny indeed.

  • Martin on January 4, 2014, 5:22 GMT

    Most folk watching county cricket last year could have told you that Tremlett was a pale shadow of his 2011 Ashes self and that Onions was the better bowler for this trip. Peakfan, whilst I would support you completely over the more "compact" bowlers such as Larwood, Trueman & Marshall, it is difficult to argue with the records of bowlers such as Ambrose, Walsh, Garner, Patterson, and Croft ! Have just watched Rankin's first over of the second innings. The poor chap is down in pace by between 5 -8mph and has no confidence whatsoever. As someone else suggested, the "bit-part" players could have been kept fit in Grade cricket. Poor selection, poor management and poor execution.

  • David on January 4, 2014, 3:58 GMT

    Finn should have played in every test. At least then England could have thrown back some hostility back at Australia instead of producing on of the most limp wrested and pathetic performances i have seen in an Ashes contest in decades. This has been pathetic. No fight at all. No shame in losing but there is much shame in losing with out putting up a fight. The selectors and senior players should line up and publicly apologise to Stokes and Australian and English cricket fans for their lack of heart, courage and effort.

  • Suresh on January 4, 2014, 3:56 GMT

    England has their hands everybody else's cookie jar ....and still

  • Sean on January 4, 2014, 3:14 GMT

    Yep, its funny how everyone wants to play for England, isnt it?

  • seb on January 4, 2014, 1:00 GMT

    If he was going to give up playing for Ireland for a shot at Test Cricket, why didn't he try to qualify for a better team than England? Shows a marked lack of ambition.

  • Michael on January 3, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    Perhaps the selectors should consider a players fitness record over a period of time before selecting them for tours like this,as well as not take players recovering from injuries such as Bresnan. It never works. This side was,unlike most of Miller's, an appalling chapter of misselections and an invitations to disaster; further in selecting for each match thr seleections have reverted to 1990's type and with that the style of cricket played has gone back. Three new faces for this game is 2 too many.

  • Heath on January 3, 2014, 22:39 GMT

    Players on the sidelines during tours should be playing grade cricket to keep them match fit.

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