Magellan Ashes 2017-18

England sweating on threadbare pace stocks

Latest injury to Jake Ball leaves tourists facing some serious Ashes selection headaches

Chris Stocks

10 November 2017, 08:19 AM AEST

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

Ball fall sends scare through England camp

The addition of Jake Ball to England's mounting list of injuries has left them with a serious selection headache less than two weeks out from the start of the Magellan Ashes series.

For many years, Australia have been mocked for the fragility of their fast bowlers and even before this tour began there was more evidence of that when James Pattinson sustained a back injury that has ruled him out of the upcoming series against England and beyond.

But now the shoe is on the other foot as, just two days after Steve Finn returned home with a torn cartilage in his left knee, Ball broke down during his fourth over of the match against a Cricket Australia XI at the Adelaide Oval.

Make no mistake, the Nottinghamshire bowler was an almost certain starter at the Gabba given the impressive way he has begun this tour, following up a purposeful performance in England's opening warm-up match against a Western Australia XI in Perth with another on the second day of the second tour match here.

In the 3.4 overs he bowled, Ball picked up the wicket of Ryan Gibson and conceded just five runs.

Day two highlights: CA XI v ENG

He may still yet recover in time for Brisbane – England have initially diagnosed a sprain in his right ankle and will have scans in Adelaide today – but Ball's removal from the action exposed just how bare England's seam-bowling stocks are less than a fortnight into the tour.

Three players in Ben Stokes, unavailable for selection while he is still the subject of a police investigation into his Bristol altercation at the end of the northern summer, Toby Roland-Jones, out with a back injury, and Mark Wood, demoted to the England Lions trip of Australia so he can prove his fitness, are huge misses for the tourists.

All three would all be live contenders for a place in the first XI, with Stokes guaranteed his spot as an allrounder and the other two almost certain to be above both Ball and Craig Overton in the pecking order if they were fit.

Now, though, England might have to select a Test debutant in Overton who was hit for 19 off one over during this match by Simon Milenko, a big-hitting 28-year-old allrounder who before this had played just 14 first-class matches and averaged 28.

Milenko hammers Overton for 19 in an over

England's fast-bowling worries are in stark contrast to Australia, who have the luxury of resting frontline seamers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird from the next round of Sheffield Shield games ahead of the start of the Ashes on November 23.

England do still, though, have two bowlers to call on in James Anderson and Stuart Broad with a combined total of 894 Test wickets.

The pair, numbers one and two on England's all-time list of Test wicket-takers, will pose a very real threat to Australia's Ashes hopes.

And in Chris Woakes, who bowled well in taking two wickets on day two of this match, they possess another bowler who appears to have worked out a way to cause problems in Australian conditions.

Watch all the Cricket Australia XI wickets

Keeping all three fit for five Test matches will key for England.

However, that is not something that can be guaranteed.

Anderson, now 35, has had a succession of injury problems over the past 18 months, the most recent, tearing a groin muscle at the start of the last northern summer.

Broad has an ongoing problem with his left heel, something he will have to manage throughout the rest of his career and which flared up again at the start of the last English season.

Woakes, meanwhile, sustained a nine-centimetre tear in his left side during England's opening Champions Trophy game against Bangladesh in June that ruled him out for two months and saw him miss five Test matches, including the entire home series against South Africa.

Early England blow as Woakes suffers side strain

Australia, of course, will worry about the fitness of Starc, Hazelwood and Cummins, and that was underlined withTest fringe bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile reportedly suffering a recurrence of his injury woes.

But unless Stokes somehow joins the squad at some point on this tour and Wood is also added after proving himself with the Lions, England's fast-bowling resources for the Ashes look worrying threadbare.

Meanwhile, England have confirmed that James Anderson will take the vice-captaincy for the Ashes tour in Stokes' absence. 

CA XI squad: Jake Carder (WA), Jackson Coleman (Vic), Michael Cormack (SA), Daniel Fallins (NSW), Ryan Gibson (NSW), Nick Larkin (NSW), Simon Milenko (Tas), Tim Paine (Tas), Will Pucovski (Vic), Gurinder Sandhu (NSW), Jason Sangha (NSW), Matthew Short (Vic).

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21