Jake Ball is giving himself “a great chance to play” in the first Ashes Test, according to England’s assistant coach, Paul Farbrace.
Ball looked as if he had slipped out of contention after he sustained a sprained ankle while bowling in the first innings of England’s warm-up match in Adelaide last week. He subsequently left the ground on crutches and was seen wearing a ‘moon boot’ in the last couple of days.
Now Farbrace has revealed that the “aggressive” manner in which England’s medical team treated Ball’s injury – which was diagnosed as strained ligaments in his right ankle – might have made it appear worse than it actually is and that he retains realistic hopes of playing in the first Test at the Gabba that starts next Thursday.
To that end, he appeared as a substitute fielder in Townsville on Friday and, between further stints as a substitute, will bowl 15 overs in the nets on Saturday in an attempt to prove his fitness.
“We wanted Ball to get some time in the field,” Farbrace said. “If he’s going to be available to play next week, he has to spend some time on the field. So we told the umpires Alastair Cook has an upset stomach – and he does have a slightly upset stomach – so Ball can get on the field.
“He bowled in the nets today and he will bowl 15 overs in the nets tomorrow. He therefore gives himself a great chance to play next week. He is absolutely, definitely in the mix for the first Test.”
England were clearly impressed by Ball in the opening days of the tour. He was, James Anderson apart, the most impressive of the bowlers in Perth where he generated decent pace – Jonny Bairstow, the keeper, said he was the quickest of the England bowlers – and hit a perfect length. It does appear that, if he can prove his fitness, he may be England’s first choice option for the fourth seamer spot.
James Anderson also bowled in the nets on Friday and is expected to bowl 15 overs in the nets on Saturday. “We’ve no doubts about him,” Farbrace said.
Ball’s re-emergence as an option would appear to spell bad news for Craig Overton. Overton has bowled increasingly well on the tour so far, mixing decent control with a sharp bouncer. England experimented with him bowling round the wicket with a leg gully, short leg and two men out for the hook towards the close on Friday evening and, although it proved an expensive spell, he generated sharp pace from a docile surface.
He has had something of a nightmare with the bat, though, thereby losing one of his potential advantages over Ball. Overton was dismissed first ball on Friday, meaning he has been out for a duck in each of his three innings on this tour.
“It was a pretty awful dismissal,” Farbrace said. “It was a short ball he should have hit over the trees. But he’s turned it into short leg’s box. Not ideal. You can’t say he’s out of form as he’s only faced 13 balls in three innings.
“But he’s here for his bowling – which has been outstanding – and any runs he contributes is a bonus.”
Farbrace was not especially impressed by England’s cricket on Friday. While Dawid Malan completed his first century in an England shirt and the side passed 500, Farbrace was disappointed by a series of “soft” dismissals that saw them lost five wickets for 38 runs at one stage.
“It was a bit of a mixed day,” he said. “We’ve had two really good days but today we’ve slipped a fraction from the standards we would have expected. We got ourselves in a good position in the game but in terms of going into next week we have not quite been as good as we could have been.
“There were one or two soft dismissals. The lads have worked hard – they’re not machines; they make mistakes – so perhaps it’s a good timely reminder that we have to be on our game all the time. It’s quite a good reminder with the Test starting next week that we’ve got to be fully focused every day and every session.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo