A stress fracture - more of an occupational requirement than an occupational hazard for England bowlers nowadays - of his back, which has prevented him playing since 21 August, forced him to give up his place yesterday. In steps Peter Martin, the Lancashire bowler who managed to stagger through three Tests at the start of the summer before his body (in the shape of torn ankle ligaments) let him down. Dean Headley of Kent, who is at least fit even if he bowls for the side who finished bottom of the Championship, takes Martin's spot on the A team tour of Pakistan.
Martin joins Dominic Cork (history of knee problems), Angus Fraser (barely got through the last Championship game with back trouble), Devon Malcolm (recovering from a knee-cartilage operation), Darren Gough (hardly bowled since mid-summer because of a stress fracture of the foot), and Mark Ilott (stress fracture of the back several season ago) in a fast bowling attack which will strike fear in the physio's room if nowhere else.
Although he was obviously picked as a long-term investment, given both the fragile state of England's first-choice seamers and his own developing ability to ally bounce and movement at a lively pace from his 6ft 2in with Fraser-esque control, Johnson could well have made the first team by the end of the tour. He took his 40 Championship wickets at a handy enough rate (20.30) to finish 10th in the averages, and played a significant, if not crucial, role in the mid-season run that was the basis of Middlesex's title challenge.
He was doing his best to be phlegmatic yesterday. "The good news is that I'm told it should heal naturally and I'll be fighting fit by the start of next season. I did not want to fear the worst when my back was giving me trouble, but the important thing was to get it sorted out before we left."
But for his own injury worries, Martin might well have made the original 16 for the tour, which begins on 18 October. He played two one-day internationals, in which he posted the best figures by an England bowler on debut, and the first three Tests before damaging his ankle in a Sunday League game.Reuse content