England’s plans for Friday’s first Test against India have suffered a setback with Zak Crawley having to undergo scans on a possible broken wrist after slipping over at training.
The return of Rory Burns from paternity leave meant Crawley was expected to drop down to No 3 for the series-opener in Chennai, having opened the batting alongside Dom Sibley during England’s recent 2-0 victory in Sri Lanka.
But the Guardian learned on Wednesday that the 23-year-old, who struggled against spin during that tour after his breakthrough innings of 267 against Pakistan last August, is now waiting to discover the extent of an injury to his hand and wrist suffered when falling over at the Chepauk Stadium on Tuesday.
England said: “Zak Crawley did not train today at England’s practice session in Chennai. He slipped outside the dressing room yesterday [Tuesday] and has injured his right wrist. We are waiting on the results of scans and will know more tomorrow, ahead of our final practice.”
If Crawley is ruled out, it would prompt a rethink of England’s batting order. Ollie Pope, who underwent shoulder surgery last September, has been added to the main squad after proving his fitness at training, while Ben Stokes is due to return to the middle order after being rested during the Sri Lanka tour.
It may be that Stokes slots in at No 3, a role he has performed once before, during the 2018 series in Sri Lanka, or Joe Root, playing his 100th Test, has to move up despite his preference for No 4 and glowing recent form. Dan Lawrence, who recently made his debut in Galle and might otherwise have been squeezed out by the centrally contracted Pope at No 6, is another possibility.
A further option would be to retain wicketkeeper Jos Buttler at No 6 in his final Test appearance before a scheduled break, as was the case in Sri Lanka, and draft in an additional all-rounder at No 7 in either Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali.
The latter may be vying for a place in the XI either way, with the England management believed to be considering his return before the Crawley injury took place, with the 33-year-old having impressed with his bowling in the nets.
Moeen’s preparations have been limited since contracting Covid-19 at the start of England’s subcontinental winter, however, and it may be that Root and the head coach, Chris Silverwood, stick with Dom Bess for fear of long-term damage to the off-spinner’s confidence.