England's bowlers are preparing for an outbreak of panic if swing continues to elude them against New Zealand. Indeed, it may be full-blown hysteria followed by the need for crisis counselling.
Naturally, they expect no such thing. They intend to put behind them the mystery of the recent away Test series when the ball, at least as propelled by Englishmen, stayed resolutely straight throughout.
Stuart Broad, who is expected to be part of a three-man seam attack at Lord's for the first Test tomorrow, said: "We shouldn't panic too much, but we didn't move the ball as much as we wanted to on what were slow, placid pitches so if it doesn't swing and we don't move it off the straight this week we might be having a few panic meetings."
The paucity of England's bowlers in two of the three Test matches was aggravated by the ability of their opponents to find swing almost at will. It is not often lately that England have looked short of ideas compared with their counterparts but following on from the home series against South Africa last year it will become a cause for concern, as Broad indicated, were it to happen again.
"Regardless of whether you are moving the ball, you can still put six balls in the over into the right area and we probably didn't do that as a unit in New Zealand," Broad said. "Individuals might have done it here and there but we were not disciplined enough to do it consistently, so that is something we want to put into place this summer, starting on Thursday. It is about the discipline of the bowling unit being together and building pressure. That's where we let ourselves down a bit in New Zealand."
Too much can be made of these matters but word is that the 2013 batch of Dukes balls are swinging more than last year's (though it did not seem to affect Dale Steyn of South Africa much). But it is also feared that they are going soft early so new-ball wickets will be crucial as ever.
Broad, England's Twenty20 captain, has not been reinstated as Test vice-captain, even though he has now returned to the side. He lost the title when he was briefly dropped from the side in India late last year.
Matt Prior will continue in the role. Sooner or later Alastair Cook, having played 88 consecutive Tests, will presumably miss one. England will then have to decide if their wicketkeeper should lead them in a match.
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