Broad's injury slow to improve

 

Colombo

For Stuart Broad, a sprained ankle is small potatoes. Following the giant King Edwards that were severe injuries to abdomen, shoulder and elbow in the past 18 months, all of which required long periods of rest and recuperation, he would probably be tempted to dance with delight at being so minimally inconvenienced.

But dancing seemed out of the question as England returned to practice yesterday before the second match of their Sri Lanka tour against a Development XI. Broad moved gingerly throughout the fitness drills and when bowling in the nets, which were too confined for him to come off a full run.

The verdict was that it was "OK but not brilliant" and it is clear that the injury may be slightly more vexatious than first expected when he stepped on a boundary rope on the morning of the opening match last week. Although Broad remains in good spirits, he could have done without this after the three previous injuries which have cost him so much cricket in all forms of the game.

England had not entirely ruled him out of consideration for the second and final practice match before the first Test starting next Monday in Galle, but were likely to err on the side of caution. They could hardly afford him to aggravate the sprain after missing so much cricket and, although they would prefer him to have a game before the series, his place is secure in any case.

Broad has been in the form of his life since coming back into the side after his tour of Australia was curtailed in late 2010, when he pulled up at Adelaide with a stomach tear. In 10 Test matches, he has taken 46 wickets at 21.78 apiece. Whether he likes it or not, injury is stalking him at present.

England would be more relaxed about having to replace him, however, such is the depth and form of their fast bowling at present. The batting is a very different prospect and today's match at the Singhalese Sports Club is the final chance for the middle order plus the captain, Andrew Strauss, to show form in time for the Test.

Ian Bell in particular needs a score, though that applies also in lesser but varying degrees to Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara and Strauss himself. For Bopara, a Test berth may depend on his form in this match.

Andy Flower, the coach, agreed they all needed time at the crease but pointed out that it was not easy, and not only because of their lack of form. "That's the tricky thing about three-day games," he said. "If you play well you often only bat once. Four-day games would be preferable, but a lot of the time scheduling constrictions prevent that."

Meanwhile, the wind seems to have been taken out of the sails of the "cheat" storm. First, Dilruwan Perera, the batsman who refused to walk when he edged Jimmy Anderson to slip last Saturday and appeared to be caught by Strauss, wondered what all the fuss was about. Then Flower questioned Graeme Swann's verdict on the incident in which he called Perera a cheat and pontificated widely on the need for batsmen to walk.

"Is that what he said – he's a moral standard bearer, is he?" asked a somewhat surprised Flower. "Very interesting. I don't tell players to walk – I'd be a hypocrite if I did. I didn't walk.

"I think you've got to be very careful about taking too high a moral stance on issues unless you are perfect yourself.

"It's a little difficult to make a judgement as I didn't see it. But there are a few things I do know. Number one, I'm sure Strauss stepped on it fairly quickly. Number two, we do have to respect the umpires' decisions even if we disagree with them and even if they are right or wrong. [And] you do have to get on with the game."

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