The mystery surrounding Ollie Robinson’s fitness rumbles on after the England seamer was once again forced to watch from the sidelines due to stiffness in the back.
Robinson, 28, was due to face New Zealand for the County Select XI in Chelmsford but pulled out of the four-day match before the toss on Thursday with a recurrence of the issue that saw him miss all three Tests in the Caribbean in March.
Having been similarly plagued with conditioning problems that saw him abort three spells during the Ashes, England’s medical team must establish whether Robinson has a serious underlying problem or a form of performance-related anxiety is now at play.
Either way it shrinks Robinson’s prospects of featuring later on in the three-match Test series that gets under way at Lord’s next Thursday and a further blow for the national team given long-term injuries to Saqib Mahmood, Jofra Archer and Matthew Fisher.
All three have been ruled out for the season due to stress fractures of the lower back – an early sign of which is often stiffness in the same area – while Mark Wood is also unlikely to play long-form cricket until the end of the summer after elbow surgery.
Robinson’s latest setback is particularly galling after a bright start to his Test career that returned 28 wickets at 19 runs apiece last summer and raised hopes of a new-ball specialist to take over from Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in the long term.
It also saw him named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year last month, the accompanying interview for which he admitted to renewed fitness goals following a public dressing down from Jon Lewis, England’s bowling coach, in Hobart in January.
Robinson said: “I know I need to be fitter to maintain spells at my ideal pace of 82, 83mph. I get that little bit more off the wicket. If I can do that consistently for five days, instead of being 80, 81 the first two days, then 78 the last few, it would mean batters don’t feel they are getting as much relief.”
That Robinson has been ruled out of the match in Chelmsford entirely – and replaced by Ethan Bamber in the squad – is a clear concern. The four-day affair is not first-class, meaning he could have featured for the County Select XI later on in proceedings.