Published On: Fri, Nov 10th, 2017

The Ashes: Jake Ball’s injury leave England with bowler crisis ahead of first Test | Cricket | Sport

Ball broke down with an ankle injury after twisting it awkwardly while bowling his fourth over of the day and, after several minutes of treatment, was led from the field by team physio Craig De Weymarn.

Even though initial assessments on Ball diagnosed a strain, this is still a serious concern for England coming just two days after fellow fast bowler Steven Finn returned home with a tour-ending knee injury and two weeks before the start of the series against Australia in Brisbane.

The tourists are already without several fast-bowling options in Ben Stokes, unavailable while still the subject of a police investigation following a late-night incident in Bristol at the end of the summer, Toby Roland-Jones, missing this tour with a stress fracture of the back, and Mark Wood, who has yet to prove his fitness after a succession of injuries.

So the last thing England needed was a problem with Ball, who has been superb on this trip so far and was almost a certainty to make the XI for the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba.

Add in the fact that Moeen Ali has been ruled out of the first two warm-up matches in Australia with a side strain and England could be forgiven for thinking this tour is already going off the rails.

That feeling was probably heightened by the sight of Paul Collingwood, the team’s 41-year-old fielding coach who retired from Test cricket seven years ago, standing at mid-on during the middle session.

With Tom Curran, Finn’s replacement in the squad, yet to arrive in Adelaide, England had just 13 fit players available when Ball limped off.

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So with Stuart Broad rested from this match, reserve wicketkeeper Ben Foakes in the nets and Gary Ballance already on as a replacement for Ball, Collingwood, who still plays for Durham but quit Test cricket after England’s successful 2010-11 Ashes tour, was forced to don his whites and enter the fray when James Vince left the field for an over.

James Anderson at least showed some form with the pink ball in this day-night encounter, following up his four-wicket haul in the opening tour match in Perth last weekend with two more once the floodlights were switched on for the final session.

Chris Woakes, who endured a poor start to the tour in Perth, also found some rhythm as he took a wicket in each of the opening two sessions. Young leg-spinner Mason Crane also picked up three.

But Craig Overton, who may find himself making a Test debut in Brisbane almost by default if Ball is unfit, endured a tough time as he saw his 12th over of this four-day match taken for 19 runs by tailender Simon Milenko in the final session as the CA XI declared on 233-9 with five overs of the day remaining.

That gave England openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman a tricky spell under lights to negotiate before the close and they did just that to help their side to a 65-run lead by stumps.

Woakes admitted Ball’s injury is a concern but insisted: “Jake didn’t really know the extent of it, but just said it was quite sore.

“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. But we have to deal with it.”

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