England are confident key spinner Graeme Swann will be fit for next week’s first Investec Test against South Africa, following a cortisone injection and necessary rest for his sore bowling elbow.
Northampton-born Swann, renowned as one of the world’s best orthodox finger spinners after his exploits in Ashes series and England’s ICC World Twenty20 success two years ago, underlined his class when he exceeded expectations with 21 Test wickets in a hard-fought series draw in South Africa in 2009/10.
The 33-year-old has an apparently chronic problem in his right elbow, however, and has already undergone surgery on the joint in the past.
Coach Andy Flower expects both Swann and seamer Tim Bresnan - also rested from the final match of England’s 4-0 NatWest Series victory over Australia, because of an elbow niggle - to be ready to face South Africa at The Oval on July 19.
He nonetheless acknowledges both conditions will continue to need careful management, and hinted further rest periods may be likely to try to prolong Swann’s career in all three international formats.
“Swann has a cortisone injection in his elbow - and with the combination of rest and the injection, he should be fit for the Test,” said Flower.
“They have had these ongoing elbow problems, both Swann and Bresnan.
“Our medical staff believe they will be fit and available for selection for the first Test.
“But it’s a strenuous exercise, being a bowler playing international cricket.
“They play all three forms of the game. So that’s why Swann missed a big part of the one-day series and why we rested Bresnan on occasion.”
Bresnan underwent elbow surgery too late last year, and then had to pull out of the shock Test series defeat against Pakistan in the Middle East.
As for Swann, Flower agrees his presence is a pivotal aspect of England’s performance.
“Absolutely - but there will be opportunities for youngsters when we rest Swann.”
Swann and Bresnan, like the remaining candidates to form England’s bowling attack against South Africa, have been prescribed rest rather than action in county championship cricket this week.
Flower would have liked some of the batsmen to have an opportunity to re-attune themselves to the red-ball format, but the proximity of the end of the one-day international series mostly scuppered that option.
“It would have been nice to get a chance. But in most cases that’s proved particularly awkward, and that is a pity,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s our decision whether they play or not.
“A lot of them are very experienced national cricketers, but sometimes what a player wants and what a player needs are different things.”