As England prepared yesterday to play cricket again the cost of their prolonged period of inactivity mounted. Ashley Giles, the squad's specialist slow left-arm bowler, was all but ruled out of selection for the fifth one-day international against the West Indies with a calf injury.
Giles sustained the injury, surprise, surprise, not by plying his trade, but while the players were being entertained on a yacht in Grenada. He was not sure how it occurred but there was probably an element of horseplay involved.
The irony is that had the rain been less relentless the team would have been doing what they are here for, and playing in a one-day international. Instead, to kill time, they eagerly took up the invitation extended by the multi-millionaire businessman, Rod Bransgrove, the chairman of Hampshire and a leading figure on the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Bransgrove has been following the team around the Caribbean and most of the players and team management accepted his generosity when the fourth match, like the second and third, was abandoned. The circumstances were unfortunate and English cricket needs all the multi-millionaire fans it can get, but it need not have happened.
The lack of cricket had already cost one injury. The batsman Paul Collingwood broke his nose on Tuesday after running into a basketball pole, but he is fit to play. It is some consolation that England can now put all that behind them, since the sun dawned bright yesterday over the Beausejour Stadium. The players who had avoided misfortune during the enforced break, could hardly wait to start work and there is every prospect of a full match today followed by another tomorrow.
If England win both they will have clinched the series. It had not been an easy time reaching St Lucia, however, and the auguries for the 2007 World Cup are not necessarily good. England left Grenada at 4am on Thursday having chartered a flight. Had they played a full match, instead of frolicking at sea, this would have been ridiculous. The flight was then delayed for four hours. Part of the following media contingent was also held up, and while this is wholly unimportant in the great scheme of things, try holding a World Cup when the television boys are stuck on the next island because aeroplanes are held up.
It has already concentrated minds and while the England captain, Michael Vaughan, refused to be drawn into controversial waters, he said, using what has become a favourite phrase, that it was far from ideal. He will be raising his concerns privately.
The ground here is magnificent and by some distance the best equipped in the Caribbean. It was built only two years ago in open countryside, has a lush, large playing area and a fresh, modern feel. West Indies have still to decide where to hold the 2007 World Cup final. Choosing St Lucia would prevent unseemly in-fighting and jealousy between the big three of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. Television producers would not be entirely upset at St Lucia and that is an important consideration. Of course, it is possible that the judgement has been swayed by the outburst of sunshine.
Given the long boundaries and a sound pitch, Giles might easily have regained his place in the side. As it is, England were giving nothing away about their selection. It is never easy to work out whether this is because they are reluctant to give the opposition the advantage of knowing who they are up against, or that they simply haven't a clue.
The likelihood is that Vaughan will lead out the XI who played for 16 overs in Port of Spain a week ago. This will mean James Anderson staying in ahead of James Kirtley and Rikki Clark, who might have lost out to Giles, being retained.
A full house of 15,000 is guaranteed and given the state of the pitch and the size of the arena, things could be set up nicely for one Brian Charles Lara.
England (from): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, R Clarke, I D Blackwell, C M W Read (wkt), D Gough, J M Anderson, S J Harmison, R J Kirtley, A McGrath, G J Batty, A F Giles.
West Indies (from): B C Lara (capt), R R Sarwan, C H Gayle, S Chanderpaul, R L Powell, D R Smith, S C Joseph, R D Jacobs (wkt), D Bravo, M Dillon, R Rampaul, C D Collymore.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and E NichollsReuse content