Side-effects of an unlucky break

Nick Knight looks on the bright side as he takes an enforced rest
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Some calculated risks, in cricket as in life, succeed better than others. A shattered left index finger which now has six pins in it, suggests that one I took in the fourth one-day international in New Zealand was not an outstanding triumph.

It was the first time - and almost certainly the last in view of consequent events - that I have not worn my custom made batting gloves. It was an equal irony that it would have been also the first time that they had been stringently tested in doing the job they were meant for.

Last summer, after a couple of broken digits, my bat makers, Hunts County, and I designed a pair of gloves intended to reduce the chances of hand injury. Damage in that part of the body may be an occupational hazard for opening batsmen, but anything which gives greater protection must be worthwhile. Between us we came up with something that we hoped would absorb the impact of the ball more readily. Fingers tend to suffer more when they are jammed by the ball against the bat handle. Thus, the firmer and better spread the foam, went our thinking, the greater the chances of damage limitation.

So far, so good. The gloves have performed well since then without ever coming under the closest scrutiny because none of my fingers had come into a nasty collision with the ball. But the gloves had played many innings also. They had suffered from natural wear and tear. And so to the fateful match.

England fielded first, the pitch seemed lowish and slowish, not the type, you felt, on which the ball would rise quickly. Here came the calculated risk. I wore conventional gloves to bat in. And what happens? The first ball gets up and gives the finger a fearful rap. It would have been the severest of examinations for the special gloves. It is impossible to say what might have happened then but now the finger was immediately in a bad way. I didn't realise straight away that it was broken but I knew from the look and the throbbing that it needed attention.

It also required an operation later when the pins were installed at the fracture points. It was a pretty disheartening way to end a long tour since my form was returning. But these are the pitfalls of the game. The injury is likely to take six to eight weeks to heal and the New Zealand surgeon who performed the repairs - and expressed his satisfaction at the job - has given me a series of exercises. I hope to have a bat in my hand in four or five weeks and be playing again by mid-April but until then it is a question of ensuring the finger is kept mobile and behaves as normally as possible.

Perversely, in its somewhat painful way it has given me an important chance to rest. I have played a lot of cricket in the past year and a break, so to speak, may help in refreshing me. Australia are at the back of my mind, of course, as no doubt they are in everybody elses. They are awaiting England this summer and after the way they dealt with South Africa in the first Test of their series nobody would suggest they have regressed.

Along with every other member of the winter tour squad I am desperate to play, starting with the one-day matches in May. This England side did not achieve all their objectives over the past few months but I think they returned a better unit. We learned how to win again as the two successive victories in the Second and Third Tests against New Zealand demonstrated. Winning is a habit.

We know there are things to learn, especially the continuing need to play well in every session. There was still a tendency sometimes to be faced with ground to make up, to have to come back into the match when, if we had played properly in the first place, such resilience would have been unnecessary. But still I suggest that this team has started to progress and to do so together. Our fielding shows what a unit we can be. Continuity maybe the watch word of the moment but the fact is it can breed confidence and collective responsibility.

There were mixed feelings in leaving everybody at Heathrow on Thursday. After such a long time away you look forward so much to seeing your family and friends again but these men of whom you are suddenly taking your leave have been comrades for four long months.

Not that there's been much time to dwell on that. On Friday night I spoke at a question and answer session for my Warwickshire colleague Andy Moles's benefit. Cricket life (and Moler is the sort of ebullient character who deserves a bumper benefit) must go on. But I shall reflect on the tour and learn. Not least that you can never pack too many pairs of batting gloves.