The law of sod can rarely have been so swiftly invoked. Jimmy Anderson, who was rested from a Test match last month to preserve his body from the aches and pains of fast bowling, faces a late fitness test today before the third one-day international against Australia.
He missed the second ODI at The Oval last Sunday but, although he took no part in the optional indoor session at Edgbaston yesterday, England were keen to stress that he has not been ruled out. But, equally, they will take no chances with the niggling groin injury which he first felt when bowling at Lord's in the opening game last Friday.
If conditions underfoot are soft – and it is difficult to see them being anything else – the management will err on the side of caution. They may not yet be able to see the funny side of this but funny side there is.
The selectors copped flak, not least from the player himself, when they omitted Anderson from the side for the third Test match against the West Indies in Birmingham, citing the need for him to rest to ensure his body stayed in the best possible condition for the job. He subsequently appeared in the two ODIs that were played against West Indies but at Lord's last week was in clear discomfort.
Anderson's withdrawal today would give an unexpected opportunity to Chris Woakes, who has usually looked the part in the four ODIs he has played so far, not least in taking 6 for 45 against Australia in Brisbane last year, the second best limited-overs figures by an England bowler. Woakes has been called into the squad because of the doubts about Anderson, the withdrawal of Jade Dernbach with a side strain and the absence of Stuart Meaker, who is attending the funeral of his Surrey team-mate, Tom Maynard.
"I feel my cricket is going in the right direction and I'm a much better player than I was back then, really," said Woakes at Edgbaston yesterday.
"I've worked on a few things with the ball, particularly in one-day cricket, a few variations. I've improved technically and that has helped me put on a yard of pace. I just feel I'm a genuine all-rounder now and my game is in good order."
Woakes looks a solid, nerveless player – he hit his second ball in international cricket for six off Shaun Tait – with genuine aspirations to being an all-rounder. Towards the end of last season he looked extremely tired, having hardly had a break for three years, and early this season sustained an ankle injury when his studs stuck in the turf. But he appears to have allayed doubts about his speed.
"I definitely feel and know I've put on a yard of pace," he said. "I don't know what speed it actually is but I feel I'm consistently quicker and hitting heavier lengths."
England have been clearly the superior team in the series so far, as recognised yesterday by Australia's batsman George Bailey, who also did that rare thing in a sportsman and recognised his own shortcomings in his middle-innings partnership with Shane Watson during the defeat by England at The Oval.
In trying to preserve wickets in the middle of the innings, Bailey went too slowly and pressure increased. He said: "It was difficult, weighing up the balance of trying to keep wickets in hand so that we could build a bit of a platform to go hard – which England have done really well. But there's a balance there, and it certainly wasn't good enough – I probably put too much pressure on Watto, and we slipped too far behind to allow that platform to be set."
Edgbaston: Third ODI details
A N Cook (capt), I R Bell, I J L Trott, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wkt), T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson or C R Woakes, S T Finn.
S R Watson, D A Warner, P J Forrest, M J Clarke (capt), G J Bailey, D J Hussey, M S Wade (wkt), B Lee, M G Johnson, C J McKay, X J Doherty.
Cloudy with some rain likely, although there may be sunny spells in the afternoon. Max temp: 21C.
1.30pm-10.30pm, Sky Sports 1.
Channel 5, 12am-1.05am.
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