Wounded Lion Paul Coughlin keen to make up for lost time at Notts

Paul Coughlin dislocated a shoulder playing for England Lions Getty Images

As soon as he hit the ground, Paul Coughlin knew he had hurt himself badly. Within a few minutes, as the team doctor tended to him, he knew it would be some time before he played again

It was the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua, a little over a year ago, the last fixture of the 2017-18 England Lions season, in which Coughlin had played in all 12. The Lions had already lost their three-match unofficial ODI series against West Indies A but wanted to finish with a win and allrounder Coughlin threw himself full length in an attempt to cut off a boundary. The landing dislocated his right shoulder - his bowling arm.

"I knew from the level of pain it was a bad injury," Coughlin said, recalling a moment that effectively cost him a year of his career. "We had a doctor with us and he told me what was wrong but said they usually go back in quite easy. Mine didn't."

Several hours in hospital later, the upper arm bone was back in its socket and Coughlin was good to fly home. But that was only the start. Damage to the associated structures required careful surgery and instead of looking ahead to the pre-season North-South series and then a new domestic season, he was booked in for an operation the following week.

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There is never a good time to suffer a serious injury - and Coughlin had already missed one full season with a stress fracture early in his career - but this came at a particularly inopportune moment.

One of the country's most-promising allrounders, captain of Durham's Twenty20 side, with 121 wickets and more than 1600 runs across all formats, he was looking forward to taking his career forward after joining Nottinghamshire, a coup for the powerful East Midlands county that had Durham's chairman, Ian Botham, spitting feathers.

"I was really excited about coming here so to turn up after the winter with a pretty bad injury was a shame for me and for the club as well," he said. "I knew as soon as I hit the floor that I was going to be out for a while and it was pretty much the whole season in the end.

"It was a slow recovery. I had eight weeks in a sling where I couldn't move my arm at all. But eventually I was able to start doing things to build up the strength again, working with Liam Price, our S&C [strength and conditioning coach] and James Pipe, the physio, who have been fantastic."

Coughlin, now 26, was not entirely invisible last summer. He appeared in three T20 matches in July, as a batsman only, but thereafter was given a quieter programme in the Second XI. His first-class debut, originally pencilled in for September, did not happen. Instead, that will almost certainly come this week against Yorkshire at Trent Bridge on Friday.

"It has been a long process but I feel pretty much 100 percent up to speed now," he said.

It would be accurate in several senses to say he has gone to great lengths to reach that point. Plenty of hard yards in the gym - and a near-10,000 mile round trip to fulfil one of the more obscure gigs of the proliferating T20 circuit, in the Everest Premier League in Nepal.

Pokhara Rhinos finished last in the six-team competition in December, but Coughlin scored 91 runs and took five wickets in his five appearances. From his point of view, it was a valuable exercise.

"I'm confident I can make the impact I was hoping to do last year. Whenever my chance comes, I'll back myself"

"It was the first time I had bowled in a competitive situation, really," he said. "It was really important because to an extent you can cruise through a training session or take it a little bit easier. Until you are out there in the middle in a competitive game you don't know how you will feel and how your body will react.

"I still wasn't 100 percent when I got the chance to go out there but I felt I couldn't wait any longer to get back into a game situation and put myself to the test.

"I've come on a lot since then. Everything feels really good, I'm back up to speed and pretty much exactly where I want to be."

He will be competing for a place in a likely four-man seam attack with a good clutch of rivals on Thursday. Although Harry Gurney has signed a deal to play white-ball only, Stuart Broad will play, Jake Ball is eager to force his way back into England's thinking, left-armer Luke Wood is pushing for Gurney's spot - though starts the season on loan at Northants - and the stalwart Luke Fletcher offers consistency and control. Zak Chappell, newly signed from Leicestershire, has his eyes on the allrounder's slot as well.

Mark Footitt is another contender looking to press his claims via a loan move, and one of them will have to make way, in any event, to accommodate James Pattinson when the Australian returns in the second half of April hoping to duplicate his 2017 success.

"There are plenty of guys who can fill a lot of different positions and roles in the team and I think that's more than healthy for a team to have that competition," he said. "I'm confident I can make the impact I was hoping to do last year. Whenever my chance comes, I'll back myself."

Clearly, England will be monitoring Coughlin's progress on the field, having kept in touch with his rehabilitation, although he wants to take one step at a time.

"I'd like to pick up where I was with the Lions but I don't really want to think about that just yet," he said. "In our own squad we have enough competition so I have to earn a place here first."