One of the few current reasons to be hopeful about Australia’s prospects of regaining the Ashes has nothing to do with Australia at all.
The sudden withdrawal of off-spinner Graeme Swann from England’s Test squad on the first day of its series away to New Zealand has compounded an injury trend that is putting pressure on England’s bowling depth.
The resting of Swann for two months after England’s impressive Test series win in India did not settle his lingering elbow soreness. After three one-dayers and one first-class match in NZ it was decided Swann had to be withdrawn and sent to the United States for an operation.
Swann, 33, is expected to be fit for June’s Champions Trophy tournament immediately preceding the Ashes, although a more accurate estimate is expected after surgery.
Of the England attack that mauled Australia across the 2010-11 Ashes series only Jimmy Anderson and Steve Finn are untroubled by injury.
Lanky seamer Chris Tremlett has not played an international match for almost 14 months due to back surgery and a knee injury, but he is on track to be fit for the start of England’s domestic season.
Tim Bresnan, an Ashes revelation since his elevation for the Boxing Day Test, has since struggled for pace and is a fortnight into an expected two-month recuperation from elbow surgery.
Stuart Broad, whose last Ashes series was ruined by a back injury, is now struggling with a lacerated fat-pad on his left foot. With the condition, which hinders stress absorption during his bowling stride, unable to be fixed by surgery the 26-year-old has had to resort to a custom-made boot and a strategy of ”managing the injury”.
Finn, 23, has recovered from a back injury that developed in the India series but will be hampered by a rule change triggered by his habit of accidentally breaking the non-striker’s stumps as he bowls. The Marylebone Cricket Club has ruled such breaches will be declared a no-ball instead of a dead-ball from October this year, but could be enacted earlier at the whim of the ICC. A shortened run-up devised by bowling coach David Saker, an Australian, seems to have reduced that problem.
England’s only reserve pace options in New Zealand are Graeme Onions, a 30-year-old who has played one Test since the Ashes, and uncapped Chris Woakes.
Scrutiny of its fast-bowling depth was exacerbated by a disastrous recent tour of Australia by England’s development team.
The England Lions were swept 6:0 by Victoria and Australia in the one-day matches. Only one seamer, Toby Roland-Jones, recorded a bowling average below 40.
Apart from Anderson, the world’s sixth-ranked Test bowler, England’s main bowling success of late has been spinner Monty Panesar, who has taken 33 wickets at 26.03 in his six Tests since the Ashes.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.