Chris Woakes misses training, Jonny Bairstow hoping to keep gloves
Chris Woakes has joined Jonny Bairstow as a fitness concern for England ahead of the fourth Test in Southampton. 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 with the rest of the squad on Tuesday afternoon.
While Woakes played down the severity of the problem and had a gentle bowl in the nets on the nursery ground at the Ageas Bowl, 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.
With Sam Curran, who did not play in the third Test in Nottingham, already with the squad, England 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 Chelmsford on Wednesday morning. He can be called out of that game by England if required.
Moeen Ali is also with the squad and could come into the side either as a second spinner - an option that has not been ruled out - or to replace Bairstow.
Bairstow, meanwhile, returned to training for the first time since breaking a finger during the third Test in Nottingham. While he remains insistent he wants to play a full part in the game as batsman and keeper, he had a relatively brief session with the gloves in training. Instead Jos Buttler, who took the gloves at Trent Bridge and is already England's limited-overs keeper, spent around 30 minutes practising his keeping. Bairstow batted in the nets as normal.
Despite Bairstow's reluctance to give up the gloves, having worked hard to improve his keeping hugely over the last couple of years, it seems likely the England management will decide to appoint Buttler as keeper for this game in order to reduce the chance that Bairstow's injury could be worsened by another blow to the finger.
It was also noticeable that during England's catching practice Joe Root slotted in to second slip. Buttler has fielded at second slip recently, with Root at mid-off. Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings remained as first and third slips respectively.
"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."
It could also be that the England management's 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. Root, who has been a little short of runs in the series, arrived early to have an extra session in the nets.
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.