England will be forced to review their training routines after the newcomer Joe Denly was injured in a practice football match yesterday. Denly will miss today's opening match of the one-day series against Australia at The Oval and may be out for longer following a tackle by fellow batsman Owais Shah.
Scans on his left knee were being reviewed overnight and he will see a specialist today before any definitive diagnosis can be given. The injury was at least embarrassing and at worst stupid because of the manner in which it happened.
Doubts have been expressed before about the squad's preferred method of warming up by playing football, but so far they have been largely ignored. The team's captain Andrew Strauss conceded yesterday that things may have to change and he made little to attempt to disguise his annoyance with Shah.
"If people are going to get injured playing football we have got to have a look at it, there is no doubt about it," Strauss said. "It is very frustrating. You'd like to think the players would be sensible enough in the warm-up not to take it too far.
"I think they did today, so we will have to look at it definitely. When we do play football in the morning we have a no-tackling rule but I am not sure it was heeded today."
Asked if Shah would feel badly about happened he said: "He probably will. It was a bit of a clumsy challenge really. It is not ideal."
Denly was down on the outfield for 15 minutes and clearly in considerable pain before being carried off by the physiotherapist Kirk Russell and the head of security Reg Dickason.
To frequent observers of England's warm-up regime it has been an accident waiting to happen. Indeed accidents have already happened. Jimmy Anderson turned an ankle in New Zealand after a day's play in a Test match at Wellington last year and Matt Prior suffered a back spasm earlier this summer at Headingley as football went on around him. If the game was not to blame then, it still looked daft.
Strauss said: "You have got to warm up and you have got find a way of getting people going. You have to make a judgement on the actual risks involved rather than what people might perceive the risks to be. We are all competitive human beings. That is why we have got to this level and that is why it is good to have competition."
Denly might well have played today, accompanying Strauss at the top of England's order ahead of Ravi Bopara. Thus, Bopara has been reprieved. Quite right too, for there would have been no sense in splitting the partnership of Strauss and Bopara while still in its infancy.
Despite the Denly blow, the toughest task at hand for the team is to cope without both Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. Flintoff, now a one-day specialist following his retirement from Test cricket, is recovering from his latest bout of knee surgery and will be missing until at least February. Pietersen hopes to be back for the tour of South Africa in November if his Achilles recovers in time but it is not certain.
If Bopara does indeed open, Prior is likely to continue at number three in place of Pietersen. Shah, if forgiven for his untimely challenge, will probably bat at four with Paul Collingwood at five again.
What is probable is that the whole squad – and that goes for both sides – will be called on during such a long series. Injuries, form, the desire for experiment will all play a part. Denly, Eoin Morgan, Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan all have the chance to stake long-term places. Luke Wright, a talented and attractive cricketer, has the opportunity to make a breakthrough and confirm that he is genuinely good enough for the top level.
England's front-line bowling looks capable, and Anderson and Stuart Broad could be an authentic one-day force even in an English autumn. Australia are not the force they were. Their captain, Ricky Ponting will miss the start of the series, and their coach, Tim Nielsen, its end. They, too, have new combinations to try, though familiar runs should emanate from familiar names like the Michaels, Clarke and Hussey. Expect speed from Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson.
Pain stopped play: Why cricketers should stick to cricket
Batsman turned an ankle in the indoor nets playing football ahead of July's third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Suffered a back spasm in pre-match game of football on first day of fourth Ashes Test at Headingley last month.
Bowler twisted his ankle during warm-down kick-about after the third day's play of the second Test with New Zealand at Wellington in March 2008.
The former England captain twisted his knee playing football in the warm-up during Yorkshire's county match with Worcestershire this year.
The Australian bowler trod on a cricket ball during a pre-match game of rugby at Edgbaston in 2005. He tore ankle ligaments and sat out a Test as England regained the Ashes.