So far, so routine for England. No tour would be complete, indeed no tour could begin, without an injury scare to a major player. It duly arrived in the nick of time yesterday. Stuart Broad, a key member of the party in all forms of the game, had his right arm put into a sling and was packed off to hospital for a scan.
The mutterings around the camp indicated this was much more than the precautionary visit that England cricketers make for what seems like every niggle, testing the technology available in health services around the world.
After the results were examined last night, it was reported, to the immense relief of the England camp, that there is no major damage. But Broad will miss at least the next two matches, including the second warm-up today against the Warriors in the diamond town of Kimberley, while treatment continues. He is far from a certainty for the start of the one-day series.
He landed awkwardly on his right shoulder while diving in the field during the opening warm-up match against Diamond Eagles in Bloemfontein on Friday. Although he was moving to his left, his elbow stuck in the ground and he twisted involuntarily.
Presumably, Broad would be replaced in England's line-up by Tim Bresnan, who covered himself in glory with his valiant 80 against Australia in the Champions Trophy semi-final last month but has not come to South Africa as a first choice. It is typical of England – though down to bad luck rather than risky planning on this occasion – that they should lose an important player at the start of a tour. In recent years it has happened time and again, with Andrew Flintoff frequently being involved, so England will take no risks with Broad.
What was decidedly not routine was the way England played in their opening warm-up match. Too often at the start of tours they have been diffident and hesitant, but on Friday, in overwhelming the Diamond Eagles by 185 runs, they were clinical and efficient in all departments.
Three players made half-centuries, there was a composed century stand for the second wicket, full advantage was taken of the batting powerplay, the fast bowlers, Broad and Jimmy Anderson, made immediate incisions and the fielding was dynamic. It simply looked as if England meant business.
In a series of five matches, the likelihood is that most of the 16 players will be used. But the jockeying for positions has clearly begun for the opening 50-over international a week on Friday. Jonathan Trott established an early convincing case for his inclusion with a crisp 85. Low-key though the occasion was, the innings was remarkable because it simply looked inevitable.
Something will have to give, however, to make way for Kevin Pietersen, who will at last rejoin the squad – for the first time since the Lord's Test against Australia – in Johannesburg on Wednesday. While Trott is not yet a shoo-in, he could open the innings in place of Joe Denly, who has yet to turn solid starts into reasonable attainment.
In the middle order, Eoin Morgan (pictured) has made admirable, fearless progress. As he again showed in the closing overs on Friday, he is bringing something refreshing to the batting. What he must do is nail when to be orthodox and when to improvise – which he does with élan.
Morgan said: "It's fantastic to have Kevin back but obviously it will create a lot of competition in the side, which moving forward we want to have because it will give depth to the squad." He was talking about a different kind of depth from those that England have plumbed in one-day cricket too often, and if they can find it they have a chance in the next few weeks.Reuse content