Starc’s twin hat-trick in the Sheffield Shield will do little to help the cause of the English side, which has already been plagued with injuries. Although England completed a comfortable win in the practice match against Cricket Australia XI, all is certainly not well on the English side.
Pacer Jake Ball is the latest entry into the list of injured English players. The Nottinghamshire bowler was bowling in the practice match against Cricket Australia XI when he sprained his ankle in the midst of his stride. The extent of the injury is not known yet.
“He’s been bowling nicely on this trip so far, so when you see a fellow fast bowler go off the field – particularly the way he did it, falling under himself – it’s quite frustrating for him and us as a team.” said Chris Woakes after Ball was spotted leaving the ground on crutches.
Just two weeks before the first Ashes Test match, Ball’s injury comes at a time which may prove to be a huge setback for England. Ben Stokes, Steven Finn, Toby Roland and Mark Wood are already set to miss out due to injuries.
Ben Stokes and Alex Hales were slapped a ban after videos surfaced of their late-night brawl in Bristol. Stokes can be clearly seen punching a man in the CCTV footage. The man was severely injured and fell on the ground after Stokes’ punch.
Even Mitchell Starc conceded that Stokes would have had an impact on the upcoming series. He said, “Everyone in world cricket knows how good a cricketer Ben is. He is England’s best all-rounder. It is yet to be seen whether he will be on the plane – if he does come we know how good a player he is and he makes that team more balanced. If he is not there, it is a blow for them and good for us.”
Stokes’ all-round abilities would have been of the utmost use to England, but a moment of fury cost him his place in the side. James Anderson has been announced the vice-captain for the Ashes tour in his place.
Steven Finn, who had been announced as the replacement for Stokes, met the same fate. He tore the cartilage in his left knee. The 28-year-old, who was injured in a practice session, has returned to the UK.
Surrey all-rounder Tom Curran, who is yet to make his Test debut, has been named as his replacement. Tom has featured in only one ODI and three T20s for England.
The brother of OGK Roland-Jones, Toby made his test debut at the Oval against South Africa. He was all set to seal his spot in England’s team. Unfortunately, the right-arm medium pacer suffered a stress fracture in his back during Middlesex’s championship win over Lancashire.
Though the injury is not very serious, it will keep the Durham fast bowler out of the field for at least six weeks. He will certainly not be fully fit until the middle of the series, and the English team management cannot afford to take a half-fit player on the tour.
Mark Wood burst on to the scene bagging three wickets in the first innings of a match against New Zealand at Lord’s. He is not your ‘Anderson-like’ swing bowler but possesses great work ethics. Wood’s persistent heel problem has flared up again and has denied him a debut Ashes appearance.
However, all is not lost for the English side. The 192-run victory over Cricket Australia XI came as a confidence booster for them. The victory may strike a chord with the English team which has otherwise been caught up in a spiral of injuries.
Mark Stoneman has been a ray of hope for the English side, with half-centuries in each of the two innings in the practice match against Cricket Australia XI. Chris Woakes and James Anderson have also been swinging the ball well. Moeen Ali is also gradually recovering from his injury.
If England succeeds in getting its act together and is able to gain the much-required momentum, a cracker of a series will be on display for cricket lovers all over the world.
A version of this post was first published here.