The Ashes: Stuart Broad backs fitness - but record raises fears

Fast bowler confident of playing at Trent Bridge next week following shoulder injection

In typically bullish fashion, Stuart Broad declared he was "100 per cent fit" for Ashes battle after having a cortisone injection in his shoulder this week. Yet while he is very likely to be in the England team at Trent Bridge in five days' time, the fast bowler's injury record invites questions about how many of the following nine Tests against Australia he will be able to play.

Since he was forced to return home after two Tests of the last Ashes series, in 2010-11, because of a torn stomach muscle, Broad's physical state has been fragile. Various complaints have forced him to miss parts of limited-overs and Test campaigns, and during his seven-year international career, there have sometimes been doubts about his fitness pre-match, even when he has been able to play.

Broad had the cortisone administered in the shoulder, which has troubled him before, four days ago after being ruled out of England's warm-up match against Essex.

Team coach, Andy Flower, was cautiously optimistic about Broad's fitness after that game and although the player is even more upbeat, England will be monitoring the 27-year-old carefully.

"I'm very confident," Broad said. "I'm due to bowl flat out for the first time on Saturday. If the Test started today, I would be ready to go. An anti-inflammatory injection gets rid of the swelling.

"The most important aspect was how the shoulder felt two days after the injection. On Wednesday, I managed to bat, bowl and do some running without any major pain, so the shoulder is really good.

"The damage happened in the Champions Trophy Final [against India on 23 June], when I dived to make my ground while batting. As a tall, gangly bloke, I landed a bit awkwardly and jarred my shoulder a little bit.

"If it had been anything but my right shoulder, it wouldn't have been much of an issue, and it hurt only when I got to the top of my bowling action, which is where the swelling was. We just put a cortisone injection in it on Monday to get rid of the excess fluid and it seems to have settled."

Fast bowling is a tough business, however. The repetitive strain it places on the body is considerable and it is remarkable that Broad's new-ball partner, Jimmy Anderson, has suffered relatively few niggles in recent years.

England's management are doing their best to play down the latest incident but Broad's history suggests he might struggle to play all 10 Tests against Australia. Anderson and Broad, along with Steve Finn or Tim Bresnan, will doubtless form the pace attack at Trent Bridge but there will surely be opportunities for others, such as Graham Onions, Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett, in the months ahead.

Broad is, however, a vital player and has shown his quality in Ashes contests. His 5 for 37 in the first innings at The Oval in 2009, in the final Test of the series, was a decisive moment in the victory that enabled England to regain the urn.

Broad's truncated Ashes tour last time around makes him even more desperate to reprise the events of four years ago.

"Looking back to 2009, remembering the atmosphere at The Oval and the celebrations you have when you lift the urn fuels the fire to want to do that again," said Broad, speaking at an event hosted by sponsors Investec. "It's exciting to think we can have those kinds of memories again. There will be nerves at the start of a huge series for us, but we have confidence in knowing that we play good cricket at Trent Bridge. Our recent record there is fantastic and we really enjoy playing at the ground."

 

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Michael Clarke proves full recovery with century

Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, scored his first century of the summer as the tourists dominated the third day of their final Ashes warm-up against Worcestershire.

Clarke, who arrived in England with chronic back pain and was at one stage a doubt for the Test series, will arrive at Trent Bridge next week in fine spirits after scoring 124 from just 98 balls.

The Australians set Worcestershire a notional 457 to win and remained 393 ahead at stumps with the home side on 64 for 1.

Nick Compton, who yesterday spoke of his unhappiness at his sudden dropping by England, was the last man to fall for Worcestershire on 26.

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