Mark Wood faced a nervous night pondering his World Cup fate after injury forced him out of England’s warm-up defeat against Australia.
The paceman abandoned his run-up mid-way through his first spell at the Ageas Bowl and left the field feeling pain in his left foot.
Wood’s history of ankle problems immediately raised concerns and, although he ran towards the pavilion rather than limping, he never re-emerged and was instead sent to a nearby hospital for scans.
Captain Eoin Morgan made the same journey just 24 hours earlier and was ultimately diagnosed with a small fracture in his left index finger.
That ruled him out of the 12-run loss but he expects to be passed fit for the curtain-raiser against South Africa next Thursday.
Wood would love to be given similarly positive news but though he appeared to be in good spirits as he returned to the team hotel, which forms part of Hampshire’s stadium complex, the outlook was uncertain on Saturday evening.
Jos Buttler, deputising for Morgan as skipper, said: “We’ll see how it turns out in the morning. It can be a worry for him.
“He’s worked really hard and it’s something he’s battled a bit which is a frustration for him. He puts in all the work, the medical staff are great with him, and I’m sure he’s in the best hands.
“We hope for the best for him.”
This was only Wood’s second appearance of the season, with an output totalling just 13.1 overs, thin workload for somebody heading into an intensive 10-team competition featuring games every few days.
England’s management were careful to manage his burden for Durham due to doubts over his ankle and keen to preserve a player who has the express pace to be the quickest bowler at the tournament.
He is a dangerous enough asset to earn the benefit of any marginal calls on his availability, but England have long been aware they may need to send for replacements over the course of a lengthy competition.
“Unfortunately in professional sport things like this happen,” acknowledged Buttler.
“Around a World Cup everything is heightened because you want everyone to be fit and firing. We’ll go through the six weeks and we’ll have niggles in our team but so will other teams. It’s just the nature of the game.
“It’s always a bit of a worry because you want everyone to sail through the tournament 100 per cent fit but that’s not the nature of how things are going to happen.”
David Willey stands by having been the last seamer to miss out on the final cut of 15, but England would much prefer Wood to get the all clear.
There were no real concerns over Liam Dawson, the Hampshire spinner suffering a painful blow while backing up the stumps and subsequently being removed from the batting line-up.
“Liam could have batted if it had been a World Cup game, it’s just a cut on his finger, but as they are warm-ups you can play it safe,” Buttler said.
“We want these guys fit and available for the first game of the World Cup.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Steve Smith brushed aside a predictably-frosty welcome at the Ageas Bowl as his match-winning century guided Australia to a 12-run victory over England as both sides continued their World Cup preparations.
Smith and team-mate David Warner were both taking on their old Ashes rivals for the first time since their year-long ball-tampering bans expired, and – although both men were barracked on their way to the crease – the former was seemingly oblivious as he made an accomplished 116.
While the jeers and accompanying chants of ‘cheat’ were to be expected, Smith may have been surprised to notice both his fifty and his century marked by generous applause from the more moderate members of the 11,500 in attendance.
None of England’s batsmen were able to match his class as they were dismissed for 285 and, although the match goes down as little more than a friendly, they surrendered an undefeated run of seven matches since the start of the summer.
That will not concern the hosts half as much as an injury to Mark Wood though, the seamer struck down with a left foot injury that required scans just 24 hours after captain Eoin Morgan fractured a finger.
Four successive fifties for Steve Smith now, averaging 164* in 50-over cricket since his return! World Cup on notice. #AUSvENG— Dave Middleton (@Dave_Middleton) May 25, 2019
Wood began brightly for England, serving notice of his express pace before hitting the jackpot with a slower ball that Aaron Finch lobbed to mid-on.
Wood was off the field soon after, as was his substitute Jofra Archer. He lasted less than an over before heading off in apparent discomfort, though he re-emerged after a break and was later added into the batting line-up.
With England’s numbers running thin, the call went out to assistant coach Paul Collingwood.
On the eve of his 43rd birthday and eight months on from his professional retirement, he changed into Wood’s kit, took up his old watch at backward point and let nobody down.
Warner had progressed happily to 43 and was eyeing the first half-century of his comeback when he went after Liam Plunkett.
The ball sailed high into the leg-side but straight into the hands of the sprinting Jonny Bairstow, Warner’s one-time Ashes enemy and recent Sunrisers Hyderabad team-mate.
The change of batsman offered the perfect storm for the critics in the stands, Warner heckled on his way out and Smith on his way in. The impact on the latter was non-existent, as he quickly settled into a familiar groove.
Liam Plunkett enjoyed a profitable day, adding the wickets of Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey and Nathan Coulter-Nile, but could not control Smith.
He tucked into pulls, drives and steers on the way to 50, which brought the first duelling reactions from the fans but a low-key acknowledgement from the batsman himself.
Smith needed only 42 balls to convert, reaching 99 with a flashy six off Ben Stokes then scooping Plunkett for another audacious maximum.
When the end came it was curious, what seemed like a bump ball going down in the book as a caught-and-bowled for Tom Curran with one ball of the innings left.
The chase was not a daunting one by England’s recent standards but their fearless opening pair were quieter than usual.
Jason Roy was dropped on nought by Smith, a ‘gimme’ at slip, but had yet to find his feet when Kane Richardson drew an awkward chip on 32. Bairstow, meanwhile, barely made a dent before returning the earlier favour by gifting Warner a catch.
Ben Stokes fared no little better, eking out 20 before stepping away to attack Nathan Lyon and losing his bails.
The innings was stalling when Jos Buttler (52) emerged and promptly received a short, sharp energy shot.
The stand-in skipper dashed to a 30-ball half-century, brutalising Nathan Coulter-Nile in the process.
The seamer’s first eight deliveries at Buttler disappeared for 30, including four boundaries and two mighty sixes, but the ninth was a charm.
Having seemed unconquerable, Buttler’s timing for once eluded him as a leading edge drifted in slow motion to Usman Khawaja.
As the game entered its last 10 overs, England still needed 61 – a feat that proved too tricky for the tail end.
Five of the lower order lost their wickets in the nervy denouement, bested by strong death bowling, with Chris Woakes 40 not enough to carry the day.
India’s World Cup preparations got off to the worst possible start, with their batting and bowling falling well short of expectations in their warm-up match against New Zealand on Saturday.
Batting first in overcast conditions at The Oval, Virat Kohli’s team had no answers to Trent Boult’s swing as the much vaunted Indian batting line-up was reduced to 91-7 before a fighting fifty from Ravindra Jadeja added some respectability to the total.
The Kiwis had no trouble chasing down the target with only Jasprit Bumrah making an impact in his four overs, giving away two runs, while the rest of the attack was handled expertly. Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal made hardly any impact, adding to India’s misery.
However, it was the capitulation against the moving ball that is of greater concern as this is not the first time it has happened this year.
DE JA VU
In the five-match ODI series in New Zealand earlier in the year, India were given a lesson for the ages in the fourth ODI – having already taken a 3-0 lead in the series – as they were shot out for 92 on a seaming pitch with Boult leading the way then again with five wickets.
In the fifth and final match of that series, India were once again staring down the barrel at 18-4 before a superb fightback from Ambati Rayudu and Vijay Shankar put them right back in the contest by taking the total to an eventually match-winning 252.
What those two matches showed was that no matter how good a form the Indian batting line-up is in, they can fold like a pack of cards if there is some help for the seamers.
Pitch today nothing like you would find in the main games. Not as much work has gone into it. So take India’s batting performance with a pinch of salt.#ICCWC2019— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) May 25, 2019
The main reason for India’s troubles against the moving ball in ODIs is the absence of an established middle order. With the World Cup just days away, India are still sorting out their middle order combination with no clarity over the No4 position. The top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are worth their weight in gold but against the swinging ball, the openers especially are sitting ducks.
Only captain Kohli and keeper MS Dhoni seem to have the game to bat out a majority of the overs and put up a competitive score. Otherwise, it is left to the likes of Hardik Pandya, or Jadeja as was the case on Saturday, to put some runs on the board.
BUMRAH OR BUST?
Another concern is the over-reliance on Jasprit Bumrah with the ball. New Zealand were content to play out the four overs of Bumrah and go after the rest of the attack, with Mohammed Shami looking the second most impressive bowler. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the wrist spinners simply don’t inspire any confidence at the moment and that leaves a gaping hole of at least 20 overs which India need to suddenly fill.