England enjoy Ashes boost as Jake Ball makes 'miracle' recovery from ankle injury

Chris Stocks
Back in the frame: Jake Ball: Getty Images

Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach, has revealed Jake Ball is back in the frame for next week’s First Ashes Test in Brisbane after the seamer’s “miracle” recovery from an ankle injury.

Ball was on crutches and wearing a protective boot after sustaining sprained ligaments in his right ankle bowling on the second day of England’s tour match in Adelaide last Thursday.

But eight days later he was back as a replacement fielder during England’s final warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI in Townsville.

The tourists look certain to achieve victory at some point tomorrow after they racked up 515 to take a 265-run first-innings lead and then reduced the hosts to 121 for three by the end of the third day.

But as well a first senior international century for Dawid Malan, England were buoyed by the sight of Ball coming on to the field to replace Alastair Cook during the final session.

The Nottinghamshire player also bowled in the nets today and will send down 15 more overs in practice tomorrow to prove he is fit to fill the fourth seamer’s slot in England’s side for the Gabba.

“We’ve got fantastic physios and doctors who’ve worked a miracle,” said Farbrace. “Jake’s going to bowl 15 overs in the nets tomorrow and therefore give himself a great chance of being selected next week.

“He’s absolutely, definitely in the mix for the First Test.”

Farbrace also admitted there had been some gamesmanship in getting Ball, who is competing with Craig Overton for the final place in England’s attack, on the field to replace Cook. “If he’s going to be available to play next week, then he needs to spend that time on the field,” he said.

“So we said to the umpires that Cooky’s got a slightly upset stomach — which he has, slightly — but it meant that Bally could get on the field.

“We wanted Jake to get some time in the field basically — that was the bottom line.”

Ball’s chances of being picked ahead of Overton were enhanced when the Somerset player, whose main advantage over his rival is his superior batting, was dismissed for his third successive duck on tour.

Overton, out for a pair in Adelaide, fell to the first delivery after lunch during a collapse that saw England lose five wickets for just 38 runs.

Jonny Bairstow, Malan, Moeen Ali, playing his first game on tour after coming back from a side strain, and Stuart Broad were also dismissed during a passage of play that saw the tourists slip from 419 for four to 457 for nine.

However, a last-wicket stand of 58 between Chris Woakes and Mason Crane got England’s total above 500.

This was still a largely positive day for Joe Root’s team, even though he failed to register a hundred after falling for 83 in the morning session.

Root, on 62 overnight, has failed to convert 32 of his 45 Test half-centuries. But he is at least scoring runs and is expected to raise his game when the Ashes begin next week.

But Middlesex batsman Malan, who has only played five Tests after making his debut last summer, can be pleased with his preparations for the series after hitting his third 50-plus score since arriving in Australia.

Opener Mark Stoneman became the first England player to reach three figures on this tour yesterday and Malan’s output at No5 is also encouraging ahead of the Ashes.

“Malan has shown that a little more pace and bounce in the wicket suits his game,” said Farbrace. “He found [playing in] England a bit of a struggle with the ball nipping around a bit but here with the ball bouncing and coming on, he looks very much at home.”

Moeen enjoyed a mixed day, with the all-rounder taking two wickets in the final session to prove his off-spin bowling is coming along nicely after a two-week injury lay-off.

Yet he will go into the Brisbane Test undercooked with the bat having faced just 22 balls on this tour after he was bowled for five by the part-time spin of Matthew Short.

“He just needs some rhythm,” said Farbrace. “I’m not playing down his lack of runs but he’s someone who thrives on feel — and hopefully by Brisbane he’ll feel pretty confident.”

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