England expect Jason Roy to be touch-and-go for their first Twenty20 against Australia as the opening batsman battles a back spasm.
Roy, who hit a record 180 in the opening game of the ODI series, was forced to withdraw from Friday’s walkover victory against a Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra and is being monitored by medical staff.
Pace bowler Liam Plunkett is still attempting to shrug off the hamstring strain which ruled him out of the final two matches of the 50-over campaign and must also prove his fitness, but Chris Jordan (hamstring) and Alex Hales (hand) should be ready for Wednesday’s tri-series clash in Hobart.
“Jordan and Hales are expected to be fit, Plunkett and Roy are closer to 50-50,” said captain Eoin Morgan.
“Jason had a light back spasm, overnight that got worse. He woke up Friday and it was worse. It could be five days which runs him tight up to the game in Hobart.”
England’s walking wounded will not have been helped by a travel day on Saturday, hopping from Canberra to Melbourne and then to Tasmania.
That comes hot on the heels of three-hour-plus flights in and out of Perth for the 5th ODI, with the air miles continuing to pile up when the Trans-Tasman series relocates from Australia to New Zealand at the halfway stage.
In a bid to keep bodies and minds fresh, Morgan suggested the squad could adopt a light-touch approach to net practice as the tournament unfolds
“If anything we could have done with a little more time. One of the reasons the injuries have been niggly is the flight over to Canberra, then two training days,” he said.
“Perhaps we’ll look at that again. We do a lot of flying in this series so we might not train as much as we’re supposed to. Rest and recuperation might limit the injuries a little.”
England are well-placed to paper over Plunkett’s absence should he need more time, with a total of seven seam bowling options on tour including the uncapped Sam Curran and Jake Ball, who is travelling as cover.
And if Roy’s back refuses to relent, David Willey offered a timely reminder of his top-order credentials at the Manuka Oval.
Lyon to WIlley: 6,6,6,6,6,4......boos after the last ball...— Rory Dollard (@thervd) February 2, 2018
Usually buried towards the tail at international level, he has considerable pedigree as a short-form opener in T20 cricket and was bumped to the head of the innings against the PM’s XI.
He responded in brutal fashion, smashing 79 in 36 balls including 34 in an over off Ashes-winning spinner Nathan Lyon.
Willey teed off with five successive sixes and only fell short of a maximum haul when stroking the final ball of the over for four.
As well as putting a hefty dent in Lyon’s white-ball aspirations, he did his own hopes of a promotion no hard at all.
“We’ve guys queuing up at at the minute, which is great. Dave could be an option at the top,” said Morgan.
“He was asked to go and open and was phenomenal really. Five balls in I was sure he was going to hit a sixth six, it just felt like he would. It was Chris Gayle-esque hitting.”
Despite such lofty praise – nobody on the circuit invokes the Jamaican lightly – Willey probably sits behind first-choice duo Hales and Roy as well as James Vince in the pecking order, and may need to wait for more opportunities down the order.