X-ray shows no major injury for Bell
England batsman Ian Bell was today cleared of serious injury to his left wrist and is expected to take his place in the side to face Pakistan in the first Test at Dubai, starting tomorrow.
Bell was struck on the left wrist at nets and taken for an X-ray but the results of that have shown no lasting damage.
“Bell’s X-ray on his wrist was clear and at this stage we expect him to play tomorrow,” an ECB spokeswoman said.
An England spokesman had earlier described the X-ray as “precautionary” but the news will nevertheless come as a relief, with Bell a lynchpin of England's batting line-up during their ascent to the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
There was also good news for England regarding Stuart Broad, who took full part in practice.
Broad, hit on the foot in the nets yesterday, appeared to show no discomfort from the bruising sustained then as he bowled on the edge of the square.
The first-choice seamer’s fitness will have a major bearing on England’s selection as they pore over whether they need a second spinner for Test cricket in the conditions.
Captain Andrew Strauss was giving nothing away on that score today.
“You have to pick the right balance of the team to win the Test match,” he said. “If it’s going to turn a hell of a lot, two spinners becomes an option.”
Strauss, speaking before Bell’s drama, was not weighed down with injury setbacks. Instead the skipper addressed the issue of continued self-improvement for his generation of world-beaters.
Strauss knows it was easy to drive his team-mates on in their quest to top the ICC Test rankings, famously achieved last summer. But what to say now to keep the fire in their belly, and make sure true potential is reached?
“There’s no way to guarantee these things, but it’s about pushing people to go further and people being willing enough to improve,” he said.
“We all know if you remain stagnant for any period of time, other teams will catch you and pass you.
“It’s very important for myself, (team director) Andy Flower and the side to keep pushing ourselves to get better and keep learning from every experience we have - keeping it in the locker and use it at a time we need it in the future.
“It’s all about desire, motivation and hunger. I’m confident we’ve got a lot of that.”
England have had plenty of time - since their last Test match, and Strauss’ last taste of international cricket, against India at the Kia Oval five months ago - to reset their goals.
A year largely devoid of glamour - the Ashes must wait - but full of tough assignments starts here in the Middle East against another improving team and will conclude in India, historically one of England’s most barren territories.
There will be few accolades from the wider sporting world, for defending global superiority, but every chance of coming unstuck at some stage of such an unforgiving schedule. Strauss, however, is confident England are up to it.
“There’s a lot of scope for improvement in our side, and I’ll be very disappointed if anyone sits back and thinks we’re the finished article - because we’re clearly not,” he added.
“Sub-continental cricket has not been an area English sides have done particularly well in. That’s an immediate hurdle we need to overcome. But we’re not focusing solely on sub-continental cricket, because we have a big summer as well.”
Back in the here and now, there is no hiding place.
“The first Test always sets the tone for the rest of the series, so the initial skirmishes are always important,” Strauss said.
“We’ve had a really good build-up; we’re pretty comfortable with what we think conditions will be like. But there’s always that element of the unknown when you haven’t played at a particular ground.”
Above all, Strauss will need his bowlers - two spinners or otherwise will be revealed only at the last minute - to be on their A game, in alien conditions.
“They’ve done well in England and Australia, so it’s a logical next step for them to say ’Right, let’s prove we can do it over here as well’,” he continued.
“I’ve got every faith they can, because all of our bowlers throw different questions into the mix. If you want to play well against those bowlers, you’ve got to play very well.”
Like Strauss, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq is excited about the three-Test rubber.
“It’ll be a very competitive series between two very good sides both of whom are hungry to improve and get better,” Misbah said.