Now fickle finger of fate strikes Morgan

England's well-laid plans for the World Cup were thrown into greater turmoil last night. To the list of four injured bowlers in their squad, all racing against time to be fit for the tournament, was added their most innovative batsman, Eoin Morgan.

He was immediately withdrawn from the seventh match of the one-day international series against Australia after it was revealed he had broken the middle finger of his left hand. The mystery was that it had taken so long to diagnose and to act upon.

According to a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board, Morgan first suffered discomfort during the fourth one-dayer at Adelaide. He has played in two matches since then. If, as must be suspected, he was playing down the injury, thinking both of the World Cup and the lucrative Indian Premier League that follows it, there is still the little matter of a large party of medical staff with the England team.

No decision has yet been made on his involvement but a fracture of a distal phalanx will not heal quickly. England's World Cup campaign in the subcontinent starts on 22 February. The quarter-finals, however, do not begin until 23 March.

England would expect to qualify for that stage easily and may yet have to decide if it is worth carrying Morgan around as a non-playing participant for a month. He has had a quiet time in the Australian one-day series but his value to the team in the previous year, when he made three hundreds and frequently dug them out of holes, was immeasurable. Simply, he does things of which other batsmen barely think.

His injury adds to mounting woes for England. They have four other players trying desperately to recover from a combination of ailments.

Stuart Broad, the fast bowler, is expected to make the first or second match of the tournament after suffering an abdominal tear in the Second Test of the Ashes series in Adelaide.

Graeme Swann (knee and back injuries and his wife expecting their first child any day) should join the squad no later than the second match against India on 27 February.

Tim Bresnan (calf) is almost but not quite fit and will not be ready for the start. Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring) is struggling to be ready for the warm-up games starting on 16 February.

Paul Collingwood (back injury and his wife expecting their third child) should make it in time. The likely first reserve Chris Tremlett (side strain) should also recover.

Make no mistake, it is a mess. It is not inconceivable that England will have to submit as many as four late changes to the World Cup technical committee. Or they may have to make none. They do not know.

Whoever organised a series of seven one-day matches in Australia at the end of a crammed Ashes series ought never be allowed to organise fixtures for a Sunday social fourth XI.

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