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England bowlers on the road to fitness in India
2:16pm Sunday 11th November 2012 in International
England are beginning to hope they may have a first-choice attack in operation against India in the first Test after all, as both Stuart Broad and Steven Finn continue to progress from injury.
While England's back-up bowlers, and Test possible Tim Bresnan, were trying in vain to push for an unlikely victory over Haryana at the Sardar Patel Stadium B Ground today, Broad and Finn were getting through a handful of overs off their full run in the nets next door.
Both emerged from their exertions unscathed, Broad bowling for the first time since bruising his heel last week and Finn for the second after the thigh strain he suffered almost a fortnight ago.
As Alastair Cook reflected on a third successive stalemate, but otherwise a largely satisfactory warm-up campaign before Thursday's first Test, he spoke with guarded optimism about his two tall fast bowlers.
''It is encouraging. It's great to see Stuart and Finny back bowling,'' said the England captain.
''The next few days are vital for them. We must go into that game with a fully-fit attack.
''They have to be 100%, because you see how hot it is here and how flat the wickets are.''
England dominated for much of the four days against Haryana - and after Jonathan Trott (101) had become the latest frontline batsman to make a century in a second-innings 254 for seven declared, Bresnan in particular impressed before stumps were drawn with the hosts 133 for six.
Broad is expecting to test his fitness by bowling again on Tuesday as he and Finn try to mix caution with endeavour.
''In an ideal world, I'd certainly have liked them to have had more match bowling,'' added Cook.
''The one part of this preparation period that has not quite gone right is those two not getting some overs under their belt.
''But what we do know is they are quality performers, world-class bowlers. Stuart especially is experienced, been around a long time and knows what he's doing and when his body is right.''
The next two days therefore will be key.
''We'll have to assess these guys over the next 24 to 48 hours, and make a decision on that in the next few days; clearly, we've got to be very careful.
''It'd be great if they were fully-fit, and had some overs under their belt, but they haven't.''
Those qualms aside, only England's lack of exposure to quality spin over the past two weeks is of obvious concern as they fine-tune preparations for the challenge ahead.
''We've had an excellent three games. Everyone's played, and we've got some really good practice out of it,'' said Cook.
''Clearly, we'd like to have won a game. But sometimes common sense has to be used, and there's no point really busting a gut today on a really flat wicket - with a Test match just round the corner, especially with a few injury concerns for our fast bowlers.
''We can't control the opposition, or the standard of the opposition.
''We would certainly have liked to face more spin in the matches.
''But if anyone was watching our training sessions while these games have been going on, we've had some good spinners bowling at us in the nets.
''Yes, we'd rather have had them in the middle. But we've made do, and all the lads have put in some really good practice.''
The rumour mill suggests India's former England coach Duncan Fletcher is the man behind the directive to select just one experienced frontline spinner against the tourists in the past three matches - and even then limit the deployment of Haryana captain Amit Mishra.
''I don't know who it's come from,'' said Cook.
''Clearly, there has been a message of some sort.
''There was Amit Mishra in this game. I don't know whether he was injured or not, but he didn't bowl that many overs.''
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