Friday, June 1, 2018

England sweating on talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes' fitness for decisive second Pakistan Test after hamstring injury in training

Ben Stokes has had an injury scare ahead of Friday's second Test against Pakistan after complaining of a tight left hamstring at training.

England's star all-rounder suffered the injury during fielding drills at Headingley on Wednesday, and was unable to bowl in the nets.

Stokes will be reassessed by medics on Thursday morning, but Surrey left-arm seam all-rounder Sam Curran has been added to the squad as a precaution.

Curran was a part of England's T20 squad in Australia and New Zealand but this is his first Test call-up, although it is unlikely that he would leapfrog Chris Woakes into the team.

The 19-year-old celebrates his 20 birthday on Sunday and has been in decent form with the ball for Surrey this summer taking his first 10 wicket match haul.

However, Stokes' value to England is perhaps greater with the bat than the ball and that is where Curran doesn't quite cut the mustard this season.

With the bat, his returns have been sparse with a top score of 13 in Championship cricket and 30 in white-ball cricket thus far.

England's major problem remains scoring runs, which is why Jos Buttler would move up one place in the order to six if Stokes doesn't prove his fitness in time.

Woakes would slot in at number seven, where he will fancy his chances of following up his last Test innings of 52 with more of the same.

The one area though where neither Woakes nor Curran can hold a candle to Stokes is when it comes to his imposing stature and attitude that gives England their edge.

He is the team's talisman and the man behind whom the rest of the team lineup when it comes to the battle.

England badly missed his skills Down Under but they also missed his attitude and his relentless intensity that puts oppositions on the back foot in every contest.

It is for this reason as much as for his batting that England will hope his injury is just a bit of tightness and nothing more so that he can take his place in a side that simply must win their next game.

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