Swann delays elbow surgery to help England's fight

However many bowlers England choose to use in the Fourth Test it would be helpful if most, or indeed all, of them were fully fit. That looked to be a long shot yesterday when it was revealed that Stephen Harmison had been to hospital for a scan on his back.

Although nothing was revealed save for some stiffness, presumably a hangover from Harmison's 34 overs in Antigua, it was hardly encouraging. It may give the selectors reason to assume that if Harmison makes the starting tape he may not reach the finishing line.

Given the likelihood that they will end up gambling that four bowlers will be sufficient to take 20 wickets and draw level against the West Indies at 1-1 it is essential that they all play leading roles. In the absence of any of them the tourists can probably wave goodbye to a series they were confidently expected to win.

Others to be suffering aches and pains include Graeme Swann, who took eight wickets in the Third Test in Antigua last week, and Ryan Sidebottom, who is not yet match honed and is suffering from a chronic Achilles condition. It is traditional for fast bowlers with some part of their body howling in protest but England could do with less of it in the next few days.

With Andrew Flintoff already missing because of muscle tear around his right hip, their resources could start to be stretched although, nominally, they have 17 players to choose from.

Swann said he was confident that his elbow would recover in time to play. He was able to bowl briefly in the nets at Kensington Oval yesterday without discomfort but that is rather different from bowling over after over during a five-day match.

"It's a long term condition, I've had it over the last two and a half three years," Swann said.

"It's bits of bone that have fragmented off and float around and every now and then they go in the wrong place. It's very hard to manage because it's indiscriminate when they decide they're going to mess up my bowling.

"But it's happened two or three times over the last 18 months and normally a few days rest is just what the doctor ordered. Anything seems to provoke it. I did it once carrying a basket in Tescos."

There are many medical experts attached to the England squad - including doctor, physiotherapist and masseur - and to a man they had better advise Swann to desist from shopping in the next couple of days.

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