As Tom Westley edges closer to a full recovery following his finger surgery back in December while on tour in Australia with the England Lions, another Essex batsman has been struck down with a similar injury.
Daniel Lawrence has been ruled out of the remainder of the Lions tour of the West Indies with a fractured hand picked up during net practice ahead of the Lions’ third unofficial Test against West Indies ‘A’, where he was expected to make his first appearance.
It was supposed to be a winter where Westley, 28, pressed his claims for a recall to the England Test side, but while fielding against a Queensland Select XI, disaster struck. Surgery was required and a three-month lay-off meant he never travelled with the Lions to the Caribbean, a tour where he will have been keen to impress and show his talent following a period in the Test side which exposed one or two technical difficulties.
Despite his examination during the English summer, Westley could still have considered himself unfortunate to have missed out on the Ashes squad; he didn’t conclusively accept the opportunity he was given in the Test side, nor did he look utterly out of his depth and with no obvious or outstanding candidate to replace him perhaps some favourable selection could have seen him retain his place.
In order to get more Test matches for England Westley will now have to display evidence that he has overcome the issues with playing across his front pad without losing what is an obvious strength in playing through the mid-wicket area. He needs time at the crease which, he has been denied this winter due to the unfortunate injury.
On the plus side for Essex, the man that signed a new two-year deal in October will know exactly what he’ll need to do when the season gets underway to recapture England’s attention and that is score heavily for his county. A man with a point to prove can be a dangerous proposition.
Lawrence is also a batsman of undoubted potential and this Lions trip was to be another stage in his development. He was unfortunate to miss out on the starting XI for the opening Test of the current series in Jamaica; scores of two and 35 in the warm-up game against a Jamaica XI weren’t enough to convince the selectors to include him. Worcester’s Joe Clarke, who made a second innings 87 in the warm-up fixture, pipped Lawrence to the spot.
If Lawrence is not quite in the running for being ‘the next cab off the rank’, he’s certainly working towards that group of contenders. In Essex’s Championship winning season last year, only Nick Browne scored more than his 761 runs – which included three centuries. In terms of temperament, 20-year old Lawrence could make a case for already being there. He has the discipline to bat unflustered for long periods but this hand injury is indeed an unwanted setback meaning he’ll also miss the one-day series against West Indies ‘A’.
The full extent of the injury or recovery time required is yet to be confirmed but it may be a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of the start of the County Championship.