Chris Woakes has emerged as a new fitness concern for England ahead of the fourth Test in Southampton. Jonny Bairstow, meanwhile, has expressed his ambition to retain the wicketkeeping gloves despite fracturing a finger at Trent Bridge last week.
Woakes, who was player of the match in the second Test at Lord’s, has experienced a recurrence of “tightness” in his right quad and missed training on Tuesday afternoon. While Woakes played down the severity of the problem, it is an injury that has recurred a few times over the last couple of years and kept him out of all England’s white-ball games earlier in the summer. As a result, the England management may take a cautious approach to his involvement.
Ben Stokes also had a heavily strapped knee at training. But Stokes, who sustained a bit of pain in his left knee towards the end of the India second innings in Nottingham, was able to take a full part in training – he batted, bowled and completed shuttle runs – and looks set to play.
With Sam Curran, who did not play in the third Test in Nottingham, already with the squad, the England management have decided there is no need to call-up another bowler as cover at this stage. Jamie Porter, who is on standby, is scheduled to start a Championship match for Essex (against Hampshire) in Southampton on Wednesday morning. He can be called out of that game by England if require.
Woakes and, to a lesser extent, Stokes join Bairstow as doubtful selections for the game. Bairstow sustained a broken finger during the third Test but insisted he was keen to play a full part in Southampton. He kept and batted for the first time since the Test in training on Tuesday.
“The finger feels good,” Bairstow said ahead of training. “The swelling’s gone down and it’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
“I want to play so if I’m not able to keep wicket I’d like to think I can play as a specialist batsman. I’m still desperate to try to keep my place as the keeper.”
With Jos Buttler, England’s white-ball keeper, already part of the team, however, it may well be the England management opt to give him the gloves rather than risk any possibility that Bairstow’s injury could be worsened by another blow to the finger.
It could also be that their desire to strengthen the batting sees Ollie Pope, who bats at No. 6 for Surrey but has batted at No. 4 in his two Tests to date, dropped down the order a place or two – although Bairstow didn’t seem especially enamoured with the prospect of being promoted.
“I’ve not really batted higher than five for Yorkshire,” Bairstow said. “If you look at the stats they suggest I’m better if I keep wicket as well. I’d like to keep my spot as keeper because I like to think it’s gone well over the last 38 or 39 Tests since I’ve been keeping for England.
“There are obviously conversations to be had but, at this moment in time, I was asked if I was comfortable batting at five and keeping and it’s been successful.”
The England coaches were assisted by Michael Yardy, James Kirtley (both formerly of Sussex and England) and Michael Bates (the former Hampshire and Somerset keeper) on Tuesday afternoon. The surface for the Test looked surprisingly green, though locals expect it to settled down and prove pretty good for batting.
Training was also noticeable for the sight of Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, being asked for ID and threatened with ejection by an enthusiastic steward. Bransgrove, who has invested – lost, might be a more accurate term – more than £10m into Hampshire and the Ageas Bowl ground, eventually proved his identify by pointing out a mural on the wall of the pavilion (the pavilion that bears his name) showing him holding aloft a trophy.