DURHAM star Graham Onions put himself in the frame for an Ashes place yesterday with Stuart Broad an injury doubt ahead of the first Test.
Onions took four wickets at Chelmsford as England beat Essex by 228 runs.
Afterwards, coach Andy Flower revealed Broad has had a cortisone injection in the sore right shoulder which ruled him out of the victory.
Flower is confident both Broad and spinner Graeme Swann will be ready for next week’s first Test at Trent Bridge – but Onions’ performance has ensured he should be at the front of the queue if the bowler suffers a setback.
Swann had been an injury concern after being hit on the arm while batting, but he went on to demonstrate his well-being by taking 5-68, with Onions joining in with 4-43, as Essex collapsed in their second innings, losing five wickets for 11 runs at one point.
“There were great concerns about him,” said Flower of Swann. “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 – but it would have given someone else a better chance.”
Swann recovered sufficiently to bowl the next day and then again, for longer and with more rewards, when Essex’s second-innings chase of a notional 415 faltered to 186 all out.
Swann himself confirmed post-match that he was in good health.
“The arm’s great,” he said. “Obviously I was a bit worried at first when I got hit – I’m not used to getting smashed by rockets.
“But after a day off the field, watching our boys toil hard, I decided that it was time to get out there.”
The outlook is good too for Broad, according to Flower.
“He should be OK,” he said. “He had a cortisone injection in his shoulder and reacted pretty well.”
Broad joined the rested James Anderson, bowling on the edge of the square at lunchtime yesterday.
“That was his first effort at bowling,” Flower said.
“I was pleasantly surprised, and we anticipate him being fit.
“He could not have played this game. But we hope that’s it for that problem.”