Cricket: Swann anxious ahead of Ashes

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England’s Graeme Swann was the shining light yesterday in a predictable win over injury-hit county side Essex in their final warm-up match before the first Ashes Test with Australia next week.

Swann, who gave England an injury scare after being hit on the arm during the match at Chelmsford, took 5-68 in 20 impressive overs as Essex, chasing an improbable 415 to win, were bowled out for 186.

The four-day challenge match had been stripped of its first-class status after Essex’s main bowlers, David Masters and Tymal Mills, were both injured and county academy player Aaron Beard, 15, was called on to field. England skipper Alastair Cook (82) and Jonathan Trott (79) managed some runs in the second innings when the standard of bowling was poor.

“There were great concerns about him,” said coach Andy Flower about Swann’s condition. “We thought he might have cracked his ulna. Luckily it wasn’t the case, but it was badly swollen – not only when he was batting but afterwards. For a couple of hours, we thought he might have been missing (from the start of the Ashes) – which would have been a serious blow.”

Meanwhile, in Australia’s final pre-Ashes game against Worcestershire, opener Nick Compton, who was left out of the Chelmsford match in favour of Joe Root, scored a battling 79. Compton, playing as a guest for Worcestershire, hit ten fours.

Australia are fighting for form and stability after sacking coach Mickey Arthur at the end of June and replacing him with Darren Lehmann, who caused a surprise by announcing on Monday that 35-year-old Chris Rogers would open Australia’s innings with Shane Watson when the first Test gets underway at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, on 10 July.

Rogers has played only one Test for his country, against India in January 2008, when he scored 19 runs in two innings. But the untried Rogers-Watson pairing had a productive time at Worcester, putting on 170 for the first wicket. Watson hit a century before lunch and was eventually out for 109 while Rogers scored 75. At the close on the second day of the four-day match, Worcester were 191-6 in reply to Australia’s first innings 396-4 declared.