It might be a little early in the piece but on England cricket tours some things never change. These days the lads might come away from home as lords of all they survey, cocks of the walk and all that, but like all the teams before them they still seem routinely disposed towards injury scares.
The first of this trip to the UAE where they will play their first warm-up game here tomorrow, before the start of the Test series against Pakistan, was to Tim Bresnan, who is confidently expected to take the third seamers' spot in the preferred team.
It is not a new injury. During net practice yesterday, Bresnan felt a twinge in the right elbow on which he had surgery in November. England's management was keen to play down the injury after Bresnan complained of minor discomfort, and stressed there was no surprise in his probable unavailability for the three-day match against an ICC XI.
There should be no great surprise in the lack of surprise. Only in cases of amputation have they ever played up an injury in living memory, even when a three month lay-off has ensued. Bresnan had surgery shortly after the one-day tour to India in October, having fragments removed from a bone spur.
Although his recovery has progressed more quickly than expected, the start of the tour was always likely to be pushing it for his bowling arm, especially with the need to get overs under his belt. If he does not make it at the ICC Global Cricket Academy ground tomorrow (where neither of the two Tests here are to be played) his chances of making the side for the opening international will presumably diminish.
England might have a first-choice side in mind, but what they do not want is an under-cooked one on pitches which may struggle to meet the description of sporting. But, as everybody keeps saying, their bowling resources are about as well stocked as sand in the desert hereabouts at present, and a struggling Bresnan may offer an opportunity to another of the bowlers in the squad.
In reserve are Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn and less predictably, since he was not named in the squad for this tour, Graeme Onions, who has been brought out as cover in the pre-Test preparations. The presence of Onions, while obviously sensible, suggests that England might have had a teensy-weensy idea that Bresnan and his elbow was to be in a race against time.
All Finn can do is barge through the door should a tiny crack open sometime in the next week. He played only one of his 12 Tests last year, against Sri Lanka in June, after losing his place in last winter's Ashes series despite taking 14 wickets in the first three matches.
"It is frustrating," he said yesterday. "I want to play every game of cricket that is available for England, but I have to wait. I have to bide my time. I'm lucky that time's on my side – I'm only 22 years old."
Also on his side is the discernible increase in pace (and corresponding discomfiting bounce) he displayed towards the end of the summer and on the one-day tour of India. Since then he has been in New Zealand where he played four matches for Otago. Finn hardly pulled up trees, taking nine wickets at 36.22 with a best haul of 3 for 71, but the 129 overs he bowled may turn out to be much more significant as this year unfolds.
He said: "I'm looking forward to the challenges of the next however many months, and as long as I'm in and around the set-up and always learning off people, I'm only going to get better. Patience is very important in cricket – batting, bowling, everything – and waiting to get into the team is another example.
"The great strength of this team is the fact there is such competition for places. I'm probably down the pecking order at the moment. The guys who have been playing have done a fantastic job. I just have to wait for an opportunity, and when I get it I have to take it." Of course, Tremlett might have something to say about that as well.Reuse content