ECB insists Anderson will be fit for first Test

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The Independent Online

It did not take long for the pre-Ashes schadenfraude to wear off.

English pleasure at Australia's defeat in India, and the subsequent row between Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne, was yesterday overshadowed by the news that Jimmy Anderson has a cracked rib, and Kevin Pietersen had suffered a two-ball duck in his quest for form.

Anderson's injury is nearly three weeks old, but the England and Wales Cricket Board imposed a news blackout on the incident because it occurred during the 'team-bonding' trip to Bavaria, and was inflicted by one of his own team-mates during a boxing session. The value of the trip was doubted at the time; the revelation that England's striker bowler was injured during it has brought renewed criticism.

The ECB yesterday insisted Anderson will be fit for the first Test, which starts in Brisbane on 25 November, but rib injuries are especially troublesome for a fast bowler and there can be no guarantees. Anderson will fly to Australia with the rest of the squad on 29 October but is unlikely to play in the opening match against Western Australia on 5 November. If he is unfit for the Test Tim Bresnan, or Chris Tremlett, would be likely to play.

The trip came at the end of a demanding season when many players wished instead to spend time with their families. As well as boxing, the squad, and support staff, went hiking, performed abseiling, and visited the former Dachau concentration camp.

Warne is an outspoken critic of the concept, having endured a gruelling one under John Buchanan with Australia. Somewhat embarrassingly Graeme Thorpe, just prior to his appointment as England batting coach, addressed the subject in his Eurosport column, making the observation that "the trip Buchanan led to the Australian outback was rightly criticised after some of the players got injured, but don't fear, England's will not have been anything like that".

The former Surrey and England batsman added: "The players are going to be around each other an awful lot this winter, this trip will have taught them how to behave with each individual, when to bond and when to leave people alone.

"These exercises are supposed to develop you as human beings, help improve your sense of initiative, communication and teamwork skills under pressure, and that is always going to be pretty helpful."

However, those intangible benefits appear limited when set against Anderson's mishap. Former England captain Michael Vaughan yesterday tweeted: "Big blow for England if it's true Jimmy Anderson has a broken rib. He is the leader of the seam attack now."

Anderson, normally a prolific tweeter, was silent on the subject but the twittersphere was humming with tweets addressed to him asking who the culprit was (the general consensus identified a jab from light-heavyweight Bresnan as the most likely cause).

Anderson took five wickets at 82 apiece on England's last tour of Australia and his swing has generally been less penetrative overseas; nevertheless, he would be expected to take the new ball in Brisbane.

Pietersen's duck came in Durban where he was playing for Kwazulu Natal Dolphins against the Titans. It is the second of two matches he has arranged to play for his old province in his continuing search for the big scores he needs to regain confidence and form.

Pietersen, who made 36 in his only innings of the first match last week, came to the crease with the Dolphins on 19-2 and was lbw to Ethy Mbhalati without striking either ball he received. Pietersen has not scored a first-class century since making 102 against the West Indies in Trinidad in March 2009.