England interim coach Paul Collingwood admitted his concern at seeing Ollie Robinson suffer a back injury on Thursday, but he has not given up hope of a positive update ahead of next week’s first Test against the West Indies.
Robinson departed in discomfort on the third morning of the warm-up clash against the CWI President’s XI in Antigua and will not feature on the fourth and final day.
He suffered similar problems during his previous competitive outing, England’s Ashes humiliation in Hobart back in January, and there were public criticisms of his conditioning by the management on that trip.
Having taken the divisive decision to drop record wicket-takers James Anderson and Stuart Broad from the three-match series, the tourists now find themselves in a dicey position with their bowling attack.
Mark Wood also sat out on Thursday, having suffered from illness over the past couple of days, but despite sending him for precautionary blood tests, they expect him to return to the side and bowl at some stage on Friday.
With question marks over two of their first-choice pace options, uncapped duo Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher – both of whom were parachuted into the match at short notice – stand by.
“Ollie has got a back spasm, it’s not ideal. It’s hard to say at the moment, but when someone walks off like that it doesn’t look good,” said Collingwood.
“These kind of spasms can heal as quickly as they come. We’ll just have to assess it. I certainly don’t think Ollie will be bowling on day four, that would be too much of a risk.”
Collingwood offered some sympathetic words to Robinson, who was directly challenged to improve his fitness by bowling coach Jon Lewis in Australia.
“As a bowler you do pick up injuries. It’s something we’re always on top of with Ollie and he knows that, but he’s working hard, as hard as anyone else, and it’s unfortunate when something like that happens,” he said.
“Test cricket is a hell of a lot different to playing a four-day county match. Sometimes we expect these guys to come from county cricket and be the finished article. They’re certainly not, not skill-wise and not physically.
“I’m sure he understands his body pretty well from county cricket, but we can’t take risks with him and push him too far, too soon.”
As for Wood, the outlook was brighter.
“Mark has gone for precautionary blood tests today, but I’m hoping to get two or three spells out of him,” said Collingwood.
“His loads have been good in training and I can’t add any more days into the schedule, so hopefully it will be enough. It’s definitely not Covid related, it’s an illness that has developed. But it’s looking positive at the moment.”
England have previously suggested they would not ask Anderson or Broad to serve as replacements after their controversial omissions, leaving the likes of Liam Norwell and Sam Cook as the next in line.
No moves have yet been made in that direction, with Collingwood adding: “We’re not going to panic. It was a great opportunity for Saqib to come in and bowl some overs today and even for Fish to bowl some overs.
“We have got ready replacements in terms of a squad of 16.”
England boast a healthy lead of 279 in their clash at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and resume on 77 for three. While pushing for victory is not a concern, they will want a good spell in the field to put more overs in the legs of their bowlers, with Wood needing time more than most.
Ben Stokes is also due to take a spell or two as he continues to recover from a side strain but is not expected to bowl in the first Test.