Broad offers a shred of hope for World Cup

Disaster for England at the Cricket World Cup has become a convention. They invariably roll up at the competition with issues of form, fitness and fatigue, which is usually soon followed by another F-word as they leave early with tails between their legs.

The pattern for the 2011 tournament, which begins in the Indian sub-continent in 18 days, is evolving with uncanny familiarity. All the batsmen seem to be out of form, all the bowlers seem to be unfit and everyone, while they claim otherwise, appears to be weary.

At least, the team are playing weary cricket, shadows of the formidable individuals who had taken this country by storm until only three weeks ago. England are 4-1 down and the seven-match one-day series is already lost with two games left, a salutary rejoinder to those who think there is any merit in playing this almost interminable type of competition at the end of a Test series.

On the other hand, it is possible that the attendances at Sydney tomorrow and in Perth on Sunday will hold up well because what Australians like more than anything else is a winner. They desert losers quicker than Brett Lee has been bouncing Andrew Strauss this past fortnight and, while a limited-overs series victory following the loss of the Ashes hardly amounts to redemption, it has been unexpectedly consoling.

The concern for England, with the World Cup once more so close, is not simply that they are in a habitual state of uncertainty but that they are losing, for once, to an Australian side of limited accomplishment. If they cannot give this lot a game, albeit in their own backyard, their prospects in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be on the low side of minimal as usual.

In both batting and bowling serious concerns have developed. The bowling resources are now stretched so thinly that the Durham fast bowler Liam Plunkett is flying from the England Lions tour in the West Indies to join the senior squad for the final match in Perth. If this seems extravagant in terms of time and money it is a measure of how worried England are about their bowling attack.

Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann have already left the tour for home and, although they are said to be heading in the right direction, they are both in a race against time to be ready for the World Cup. Scans were due to be carried out overnight on Ajmal Shahzad's hamstring and Chris Tremlett's side to check the extent of their injuries.

Only Jimmy Anderson of England's probable seam attack in the World Cup is fully fit. There was, however, some brighter news yesterday of Stuart Broad whose abdominal tear forced him to miss the last three Test matches in the Ashes. He is back with the team in Australia and has been bowling some gentle seamers in the nets. But whether he makes the start of the World Cup remains doubtful and England face the daunting prospect of having to make changes to their squad before a ball is bowled because so many of their original choices will not be ready for the tournament's start.

Broad said: "I think I'm a little bit ahead of schedule. It's a frustrating injury because it only seems to hurt when I bowl so I can only judge when I've bowled some overs, but I don't get any problems when I'm in the gym now."

To play the opening World Cup game against the Netherlands, Broad ideally needs to play one of the warm-up matches. Everything he is doing in training here is geared towards that but nobody dares predict his full recovery by then.

"We've just got a feel of how the muscle is feeling," he said. "At this moment I'd like to think there is no problem there at all, but I won't know until I've bowled off my full run, which I'm hoping to do by next Sunday."

If Broad runs in without mishap at the weekend that is one problem solved. The batting may take a little longer and the balance of the side is looking unwieldy. At present Paul Collingwood is doing the job of the fifth bowler and batting at seven. This is perverse thinking because in only 20 of his 192 matches has Collingwood bowled his full complement of 10 overs and in 124 of them he has bowled five or fewer. He is a support bowler, always has been, always will be. But he has to play despite his woeful batting form.

The batting is muddying the clear waters needed and sooner or later England will have to drop a batsman. Strauss is, of course, untouchable as captain, so too are Matt Prior as the wicketkeeper and Collingwood as the all-rounder. Which leaves Jonathan Trott, the only one to have been making runs, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan, who have all had rotten series. One of them will probably have to go sooner or later. It would be ruthless to drop Trott but the management may yet come to think a World Cup depends on it.

The walking wounded

Stuart Broad (abdominal tear, 7 Dec) set to return for World Cup warm-up against Canada on 16 February.

Tim Bresnan (calf tear, 23 Jan) should recover in time for World Cup start.

Graeme Swann (knee/lower back, sent home 25 Jan) expected back for Netherlands fixture on 22 February.

Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring strain, 31 Jan) and Chris Tremlett (side strain, 30 Jan) underwent scans yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor