England’s smooth preparations for the Test series against West Indies were undermined by the news that Sam Curran spent the day self-isolating in his room after sickness and diarrhoea overnight. He was therefore tested for Covid-19 at lunchtime on Thursday and, though feeling better in the afternoon, he will take no further part in the match at the Ageas Bowl.
In another world this development would be a pinprick, but in this one it is enough to cause a few tremors in the camp, six days before the first Test. The results of Curran’s test, expected on Friday, are nervously awaited.
Otherwise it was a day of very solid, very useful, very unspectacular practice at the Ageas Bowl. The bowling of Team Buttler allowed no liberties, the batting of Team Stokes was rusty except when Zak Crawley and Stokes himself were at the crease; the fielding might well have been very competent, though it’s tricky to tell when the streaming is restricted to the cut strip and the width of a couple of slip fielders.
Dom Bess took two wickets as Team Stokes were bowled out for 233 and he probably spoke for many in the squad when he said: “I want to start [in the Test team]. All of us do. I want to make sure I really focus on what I can do and put myself in the best position possible before selection.”
The greatest excitement came when Jofra Archer and Mark Wood bowled in tandem just before lunch. On a sluggish surface both hurried the batsmen and soon Archer had Dominic Sibley caught down the leg side from a lifting delivery, a disturbingly common mode of dismissal for him. In his second spell Wood induced an edge from a flat-footed drive from Jonny Bairstow.
The prospect of this pair of pace bowlers playing together in a Test is tantalising, though it would lead to the omission of a very high-profile England fast bowler, possibly the one masquerading as a slimline Jack Brooks (Stuart Broad has been bowling with a white bandana to keep his hair out of the way).
Batting was a struggle all day and just one six was struck (by Stokes) and maybe that was appropriate. The players wore black armbands to mark the death of Everton Weekes, one of the great Three Ws of Barbados, who died on Wednesday at the age of 95. One was the number of sixes struck by Weekes in his entire Test career of 48 matches, a record that this wonderfully mischievous soul cherished. He hit the ball ferociously hard but he liked to keep it on the ground.
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