Jamie Porter will make his second trip of the winter to the Desert Springs Resort this weekend keen to make up for lost time with the Lions.
The Essex seamer, who was the leading wicket-taker in the Specsavers County Championship last season with his 75 playing a key role in taking the title to Chelmsford, had been due to travel to Australia with the Lions before Christmas.
But the surprise discovery of a hot spot in his lower back, later confirmed as a stress fracture, denied him a close-up view of the Ashes – with the decision taken for Porter to withdraw from the Lions programme for the first half of the winter, and to link up instead with his Essex team-mate Paul Walter on the Pace Programme.
That has meant spending three days a week either side of Christmas at the Performance Centre in Loughborough, but also a first trip to Desert Springs when the Pace Programme headed for Spain in December.
Now Porter is relishing the prospect of returning, this time with the Lions – for a four-day warm-weather training camp to conclude their preparations for a six-week trip to the West Indies.
“I’m back bowling at full whack, and I feel good. I want to hit the ground running.”
“I had my final scan results back on Friday and it’s all clear,” said the 24-year-old as he bade farewell to the Pace Programme at Loughborough this week.
“So I’m back bowling at full whack, and I feel good – and I do want to hit the ground running.
“It’s been hard work on the Pace Programme, but it’s been good, and going out to Desert Springs before Christmas was just at the right time for me.
“It got me outside bowling on decent wickets, getting off a full run-up. Doing a bit of fielding outdoors as well, and a bit of batting on wickets, so it was definitely exactly what I needed at the time.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there next week and bowling at batters outdoors – that will be the perfect place to get ready for the West Indies.”
Porter admits that the events of the autumn were “tough to swallow. I got told I had the hot spot and then had a CT scan, so there was a three-day period where we were scratching our heads wondering if I could get through Australia with it. But when the scan results came back and I saw the stress fracture that was definitely the final blow.
“You look at what followed in the week or so after that, with people in the Ashes squad going down injured, and you just never know.
“Hopefully I will get the opportunity with the Lions in the West Indies to put things right and put my name in the hat again.”
Porter will be joined in Desert Springs by Toby Roland-Jones, who is also returning from a back injury and will also be making his second trip to Spain this winter after being drafted into the Pace Programme to drive his recovery.
The other seamers in the red-ball squad are Paul Coughlin, Saqib Mahmood and Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran – although Curran is not going to Desert Springs, and will instead join the Lions in Jamaica next month, as he is currently enjoying a successful spell in New Zealand domestic cricket with Auckland.
The seamers will be working with Glen Chapple, the former Lancashire captain who is now the head coach at Emirates Old Trafford, and was recently appointed fast-bowling coach for the red-ball section of the Lions tour.
“He was amazing to watch – an unbelievable bowler,” added Porter. “So I’m looking forward to working with him – I think I can learn a lot from him.”
The Lions have also confirmed that Porter’s Essex team-mate Dan Lawrence will now stay with the squad for the three-match one-day series against West Indies A in Antigua which follows the three four-day matches between the teams.
Lawrence, who had initially been selected for only the red-ball section of the tour, will replace Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone following his inclusion in the England squad for the Test tour of New Zealand – where he will be joined by two other members of the Lions squad, Ben Foakes and Mason Crane.
At the end of the one-day series against West Indies A, Porter and Lawrence will head for Barbados and link up again with Walter as the three Essex players who have been included in the South squad for their defence of the North-South Series.
“He’s over the moon with that,” Porter said of Lawrence’s white-ball selection.
“I think he’s been a bit unlucky not to play more white-ball cricket with us at Essex to be honest – his bowling comes into it as well, he bowls good off-spin in one-day cricket, and he can score runs all around the wicket.”
The Lions fly to Desert Springs on Saturday morning (20 January) and return next Thursday, ahead of their departure for Jamaica on 31 January.
England Lions squads
For whole tour
Keaton Jennings (Lancashire, capt)
Joe Clarke (Worcestershire)
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
Sam Curran (Surrey)
Jamie Porter (Essex)
Paul Coughlin (Nottinghamshire)
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire)
Nick Gubbins (Middlesex)
Alex Davies (Lancashire, wk)
Dominic Bess (Somerset)
Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire)
Liam Livingstone (Lancashire)
Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk)
Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex)
Jack Leach (Somerset)
Mason Crane (Hampshire)
Sam Northeast (Kent)
Liam Dawson (Hampshire)
Tom Helm (Middlesex)
George Garton (Sussex)
Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
5-7 February: Tour match – Sabina Park, Jamaica
11-14 February – v West Indies A: Trelawny Multiplex, Jamaica
18-21 February – v West Indies A: Sabina Park, Jamaica
26 February - 1 March – v West Indies A: Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua
4 March: Tour match – Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua
6 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua
9 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua
11 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua