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Lionel Messi sidelined for at least one game after limping out of Barcelona Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain

Messi faces rare spell on the sidelines.. but Barcelona are better off in Europe without their star man!

By
Adam Shergold

PUBLISHED:

10:17 GMT, 3 April 2013

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UPDATED:

15:15 GMT, 3 April 2013

It's a sight that has been thankfully rare over the years for Barcelona fans and the millions who appreciate his genius.

But Lionel Messi is facing a spell on the sidelines of up to three weeks after being substituted at half-time during last night's Champions League tie in Paris with a hamstring injury.

The club have confirmed that he has a thigh injury and will miss Saturday's match at home to Real Mallorca at the very least. Messi even took to his Facebook page to confirm his knock isn't as bad as first feared.

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Allaying fears: Messi posted this picture on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying his hamstring injury was not as serious as first thought

Allaying fears: Messi posted this picture on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying his hamstring injury was not as serious as first thought

Check up: Messi is accompanied by defender Jordi Alba as he walks to the medical centre at Barcelona's training ground. Initial scans on his hamstring injury suggest the damage isn't as bad as first feared

Check up: Messi is accompanied by defender Jordi Alba as he walks to the medical centre at Barcelona's training ground. Initial scans on his hamstring injury suggest the damage isn't as bad as first feared

Lionel Messi has his hamstring injury assessed at Barcelona's training ground

Rare injury blow: Lionel Messi (second left) watched the second half of Barcelona's 2-2 draw with PSG after suffering a hamstring injury

Rare injury blow: Lionel Messi (second left) watched the second half of Barcelona's 2-2 draw with PSG after suffering a hamstring injury

Deadly: Before going off, Messi opened the scoring with his 57th goal of the season

Deadly: Before going off, Messi opened the scoring with his 57th goal of the season

MESSI'S APPEARANCES

Goals scored in brackets

2004-2005: 9 (1)
2005-2006: 25 (8)
2006-2007: 36 (17)
2007-2008: 40 (16)
2008-2009: 51 (38)
2009-2010: 53 (47)
2010-2011: 55 (53)
2011-2012: 60 (73)
2012-2013: 45 (57)

Depending on his recovery, it could also
see him absent from the return with PSG next week and subsequent La
Liga matches that will see Barca secure the title.

For someone who is always target No 1 for brutish defenders, Lionel Messi is astonishingly resilient.

His untouchable scoring record and long list of accolades are testament not only to his brilliance but a good injury record.

In fact this season, the 25-year-old has played 3,193 of a possible 3,420 minutes in the league and Champions League – meaning he's missed just 227 minutes of action in these competitions.

Representing a club inevitably involved to the business end of competitions, Messi is used to playing in excess of 50 matches a season for Barcelona and up to a dozen more for Argentina.

Whereas other star players, particularly in the Premier League, are rested or rotated for less important games, Messi is as likely to start against Granada and Getafe than he is against Real Madrid.

But the physical toll rarely shows on his body, with the Argentine suffering only four injury lay-offs of note over his career.

Concern: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova talks to Messi during last night's quarter-final, first leg

Concern: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova talks to Messi during last night's quarter-final, first leg

Bloodied: Messi took a knock to the knee, which led to him being taken off at half-time

Bloodied: Messi took a knock to the knee, which led to him being taken off at half-time

Pain: Messi grabs the back of his right leg during the match at the Parc des Princes

Pain: Messi grabs the back of his right leg during the match at the Parc des Princes

Before last night, he had not had a muscle injury for three-and-a-half years, when a calf problem ruled him out of a Champions League tie with Inter Milan and a league Clasico with Real in November 2009.

He was an unused substitute in the Inter tie as Pep Guardiola decided not to risk him.

He missed league games against Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao in September 2010 with a stretched ligament, but returned for a trip to Russia to play Rubin Kazan the following week.

Prior to that, you have to go back to the 2007-2008 season when a 20-year-old Messi missed about 10 weeks of the season with a couple of injury scares.

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

Source: Opta

While Barcelona's quarter-final tie with PSG is delicately poised at 2-2, Messi's team-mates won't be too concerned by his absence.

The statistics show that, in Champions League games since Messi broke into the first team in 2004, they have won 71 per cent of matches without him and just 56 per cent of games when he's been rested or injured.

This is probably explained by Barcelona's run to the trophy in 2006, when Messi played just six of the club's 13 games.

Golden Balls: Messi, four time Ballon D'Or winner, shakes hands with David Beckham before the match

Golden Balls: Messi, four time Ballon D'Or winner, shakes hands with David Beckham before the match

By contrast, in La Liga, Barcelona have won 76 per cent of games since 2004 with him in the team.

But when Messi is absent, they have won only half.

The injury will bring to an end his record run of scoring in 19 consecutive league games. His first-half goal against PSG also drew him level with Cristiano Ronaldo and Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz as top scorer in the Champions League with eight goals.

In addition, defender Javier Mascherano was taken off on a stretcher after 84 minutes with a knee injury and will be missing for 'four to six weeks' according to Barca coach Jordi Roura.

Injury worry: Messi's compatriot Javier Mascherano was stretchered off late in the game

Injury worry: Messi's compatriot Javier Mascherano was stretchered off late in the game

Messi's absence turns the spotlight on Barcelona's misfiring strike force.

Spain's David Villa and Pedro, Chile's Alexis Sanchez, and midfielder-cum-forward Cesc Fabregas have managed only three goals between them in Europe, trailing way behind Messi, the Champions League's leading scorer for the the last four seasons in a row.

Sanchez is clearly lacking in confidence, as was seen with two poorly-taken chances on Tuesday, though he did win the penalty for Xavi to put Barca 2-1 up near the end.

Misfiring: Barcelona will rely on the out-of-form Alexis Sanchez for the second leg next week

Misfiring: Barcelona will rely on the out-of-form Alexis Sanchez for the second leg next week

Villa has failed to recover his consistency and sharpness since breaking his leg at the Club World Cup in December 2011, and Fabregas has been short of form in recent weeks.

Pedro, who was suspended on Tuesday, should have recovered from a calf injury for the second leg, but has yet to get off the mark in the Champions League this season.

Cristian Tello is another option. The little-used, young winger scored one and set up the second for Messi in their 2-2 draw at Real Zaragoza in La Liga last Saturday, and brings a directness and pace to an attack that at times lacks a cutting edge.

He has scored one goal in the Champions League this season.

Beckham pleased with draw against Barcelona

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Wolves 0 Peterborough 3 – Match report

Wolves 0 Peterborough 3: Three and easy for Posh as they move towards safety

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012

Peterborough made it three momentous wins on the bounce as Wolves joined Cardiff and Bolton on the growing list of recent sides slayed by resurgent Posh.

Goals from Lee Tomlin, Tommy Rowe and Dwight Gayle did the damage as Darren Ferguson's side received the perfect Christmas present by lifting themselves off the foot of the npower Championship.

Wolves boss Stale Solbakken named Bjorn Sigurdarson on the bench following a thigh injury, but defender Georg Margreitter (hamstring) was again sidelined following another setback on the road to recovery.

Winning feeling: Tommy Rowe celebrates after scoring his goal as Peterborough edge towards another three points

Winning feeling: Tommy Rowe celebrates after scoring his goal as Peterborough edge towards another three points

Match facts

Wolverhampton: Ikeme, Foley, Johnson, Berra, Ward (Sigurdarson 46), Pennant (Davis 76), Henry, Doumbia, Sako,Ebanks-Blake (O'Hara 76), Doyle.

Subs Not Used: De Vries, Stearman, Batth, Forde.

Booked: Pennant.

Peterborough: Olejnik, Knight-Percival, Zakuani, Bostwick, Little, Newell (Ferdinand 81), Boyd, Thorne (McCann 86), Rowe, Tomlin (Swanson 81),Gayle.

Subs Not Used: Day, Alcock, Brisley, Kearns.

Goals: Tomlin 17, Rowe 43, Gayle 69.

Attendance: 23,033

Referee: Mark Heywood

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

And it was the hosts who showed the early intent when an outswinging corner from Jermaine Pennant after five minutes was met by Roger Johnson and his header was smartly tipped over by Posh keeper Robert Olejnik.

At the other end, Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal had to be alert to turn away a 12-yard effort from Gayle as Ferguson's side showed their own attacking inclinations.

It had turned into a full-blooded festive encounter with no quarter given by either side in the hunt for crucial Championship points.

And having weathered the early Wolves storm, the visitors took the lead after 17 minutes through Tomlin.

Joe Newell provided the opportunity and when his cross from the left was not dealt with, in nipped Tomlin to strike home his eighth of the campaign from 12 yards.

It could have got worse for the hosts three minutes later but George Boyd cleared the bar when well placed inside the penalty box.

Christmas cheer: Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson saw his side win again

Christmas cheer: Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson saw his side win again

Kevin Doyle was then ideally placed to net an equaliser but Olejnik denied the striker from only six yards.

Pennant fired over with a free-kick as Wolves looked to get back on terms before the break, but Ferguson would have been impressed with his side's application in the opening half.

Solid in defence, Posh also looked potent on the break and seven minutes from the interval, Newell had the chance of adding a second before a well-timed block by Johnson got in the way of his 18-yard effort.

Doyle twice went close to levelling, while Stephen Ward saw his effort parried by Olejnik as the half-time whistle approached and the visitors rode their luck.

But a sucker punch at the other end of the field doubled Peterborough's lead after 43 minutes. This time Boyd was the provider, Rowe finishing with aplomb from 20 yards.

Ward was replaced by Sigurdarson as the second half began, with Wolves well aware the next goal was crucial.

Pennant went close again for the home side, but it was Peterborough's day and after 69 minutes Mark Little's cross was met by Gayle to make it 3-0 and secure another valuable victory for Posh.

Nicklas Bendtner Arsenal and Juventus striker undergoes successful surgery on thigh injury

On the comeback trail: Bendtner undergoes successful surgery on thigh injury but still out for two months

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UPDATED:

12:28 GMT, 18 December 2012

Bendtner leaving hospital after the surgery

Bendtner leaving hospital after the surgery

Juventus striker Nicklas Bendtner has undergone successful surgery on a thigh injury, the Serie A club have confirmed.

The on-loan Arsenal forward was treated in London by Arsenal consultant Ernest Schilders after suffering the injury in last week’s Coppa Italia meeting with Cagliari.

A statement on Juve’s official website confirmed that the 24-year-old has had the adductor longus tendon in his left thigh reinserted, with his prognosis and rehabilitation schedule to be verified with English doctors over the next few days.

Bendtner, who is likely to miss at least two months, has been a peripheral figure since joining the Italian champions on a season-long loan this summer.

Bendtner underwent successful surgery in London

Bendtner underwent successful surgery in London

Pavel Pogrebnyak plans talks with Reading owner

Problems mount for McDermott as unsettled Pogrebnyak plans talks with Reading owner

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UPDATED:

22:51 GMT, 13 December 2012

Reading's return to the Premier League is starting to unravel.

Manager Brian McDermott spent
modestly in the summer, only buying two players totalling 5million and
bringing five others in for free following their promotion as
Championship winners.

But almost half-way through the
season they are already six points adrift of 18th place, have only one
league win all season and five losses in their last five matches.

Poor return: Pavel Pogrebnyak has scored just two goals this season

Poor return: Pavel Pogrebnyak has scored just two goals this season

And the futures of two of the players brought in this summer on big wages to help form a core to their side are now in doubt.

Danny Guthrie is reported to be on 20,000 per week but in six months has been at the centre of three major incidents. Twice he reacted badly to being left out of the first team and on Tuesday, having recovered from a thigh injury, would not travel to Sunderland.

McDermott yesterday refused to guarantee his future at the club. He is yet to speak to the midfielder and said he will not be arranging a meeting with the player – it is up to Guthrie to approach him.

The 51-year-old said: 'I'm sure he'll want to talk to me but we'll see. I've got 20-odd players in the squad and I'm focussed on them and the game we've got coming up [against Arsenal].

'I don't think anything in football is untenable, there's always a way back, and the way back for him would be to train to the best of his ability, get himself in the team, play well, win games and then the fans can forgive an awful lot.'

Under pressure: Manager Brian McDermott

Under pressure: Manager Brian McDermott

Reading broke their wage structure to beat Fulham to Pavel Pogrebnyak's signature. They pay him 30,000 per week. The striker scored six Premier League goals in 12 games for Fulham on loan for the second half of last season.

But he has managed only two league goals in 11 appearances this campaign and speaking to Russian media channels Pogrebnyak cast doubt about his future at the club.

The 29-year-old said: 'What's going on I'm not ready to answer this question. I am yet to discuss the issue with the team's owner Anton Zingarevich, but this is probably necessary. After the defeat to Southampton the situation in the struggle for survival is complicated.'

McDermott is targeting players with Premier League experience in January to help Reading survive. But he is going to have to chose more wisely than he did over the summer.

They have four games against teams in the top eight before the window even opens – and need to drastically improve their form to avoid becoming entangled in a relegation battle almost impossible to win

Top Spin at the Test: Compton is all out of glove as Tucker puts premature end to partnership

Top Spin at the Test: Tucker's luck for Nick as Compton is all out of glove

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UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 6 December 2012

Nick Compton had already reached the non-striker’s end by the time umpire Rod Tucker — after a bizarre shake of the head — gave him out lbw on the sweep to Pragyan Ojha. But replays suggested Compton had gloved the ball and the batsman himself said later: ‘It hit my glove. It’s one of those things. I’m a bit disappointed, but from his position it was a very difficult decision, so that’s the way it goes.’

Openers look a dynamic duo

Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are comfortably England’s most prolific opening pairing, adding 5,253 Test runs together in 132 innings at an average of 40, with 14 century stands. Cook and Compton have already put on 438 runs together at an average of nearly 110 in only three Tests. On only four occasions did Cook and Strauss put on more than the 165 managed yesterday between the new England captain and his equally new opening partner.

In the runs: Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are England's most prolific openers

In the runs: Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are England's most prolific openers

Finn delivers on demand

A glimpse of why England were so keen for Steven Finn to play from the start of the series. With MS Dhoni threatening to extend India’s first innings, Cook turned to Finn, who responded by removing him in his first over. The nature of the ball — dug in short of a length, before climbing to take the shoulder of the bat — was just how England imagined it before Finn picked up the thigh injury that ruled him out of the first two Tests.

Ashwin’s turn to look average

India may be wondering what has happened to Ravichandran Ashwin. Feted as a mystery spinner before the start of the series, he briefly appeared to fit the bill with two early wickets on the second evening at Ahmedabad. But since England’s first innings there, he has looked ordinary, taking only three more wickets by stumps on the second day at an average of 115. His line to the right-handers has been especially poor.

Panesar excels on the subcontinent

England would dearly love to pick Monty Panesar in every Test they play, home and away, but continue to regard him as an Asian specialist because of his non-existent batting and fallible fielding. But the two wickets he took on the second morning lifted his tally for the series to 15 at 20 apiece. Graeme Swann has managed 15 at 23 — but in one more Test. The other England bowlers combined, meanwhile, have picked up eight wickets between them, five going to Jimmy Anderson.

Spearheading the attack: Monty Panesar

Spearheading the attack: Monty Panesar (FILE PHOTO)

John Ruddy ruled out for three months

Hughton dealt injury blow as first choice goalkeeper Ruddy is ruled out for three months

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UPDATED:

19:08 GMT, 28 November 2012

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy could be out for approximately three months with a thigh injury.

Chris Hughton's side have confirmed they will be without the first choice keeper on their official Twitter account.

The club's confirmation followed a tweet from Ruddy himself, revealing he will go under the knife this weekend.

Out: John Ruddy has been sidelined for three months

Out: John Ruddy has been sidelined for three months

The goalkeeper, @Johnruddy26, said:
'Just to update everyone on my injury, unfortunately I have torn my
thigh will be having surgery on saturday and out for up to 3 months, :('

It is a huge blow for in-form Norwich,
who are unbeaten in their six Premier League matches heading into
tonight's match at Southampton, where Mark Bunn deputised for Ruddy.

England paceman Steven Finn ruled out of first Test in India

England set to turn to Bresnan after Finn ruled out of first Test in India

PUBLISHED:

07:08 GMT, 14 November 2012

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UPDATED:

08:03 GMT, 14 November 2012

Steven Finn has been ruled out of England's first Test against India by a thigh strain.

England captain Alastair Cook confirmed that Finn would miss out in a press conference in Ahmedabad.

'Steven will not be available for tomorrow's Test', said Cook. 'It would be too big a risk.'

Sit this one out: England are unwilling to risk aggravating Steven Finn's injury

Sit this one out: England are unwilling to risk aggravating Steven Finn's injury

England are already contemplating a gamble on Stuart Broad's fitness as he has been troubled by a bruised heel.

Cook did not confirm who would replace Finn at the Sarwar Patel Stadium but seamer Tim Bresnan is the favourite to get the nod.

Fellow seamer Graham Onions and spinner Monty Panesar would be alternatives to Bresnan.

One bowler England will have available to them is Graeme Swann, with the off-spinner back in India following an emergency dash home to tend to his ill baby daughter.

Swann returned home last week after his daughter Charlotte was taken into hospital, but he has now rejoined the team ahead of the four-Test series.

In his column in the Sun, Swann wrote: 'I am now totally focused on the first Test after flying home because our little baby was unwell.

Face fits: Tim Bresnan shows off his own take on Movember

Face fits: Tim Bresnan with his own take on Movember

'Two long-haul
flights in the space of five days is not ideal preparation for the
opening match of a huge series for England – but some things are more
important than cricket.'

Although Swann missed several days of practice, the spinner insisted he feels ready to go.

'I had sleep flying back to India and any jet-lag has gone. I'm fresh
and the ball has been coming out well in practice,' he wrote.

'I am now concentrating on the Test. I love it when I know I'll have a
lot of work to do. The conditions will be hot, the pitches dry and spin
will be a big factor in the four-Test series.

'I genuinely believe we can win but we must play better against spin
than we did in the three Tests against Pakistan earlier this year.

'We need to get back to playing the same brand of smart, aggressive
cricket we did when winning The Ashes a couple of winters ago.'

Much of the focus in the build-up to the Test has surrounded Kevin
Pietersen's return to the team for the first time since he was dropped
for sending 'provocative' text messages to members of the South Africa
team.
Swann has welcomed Pietersen back to the fold and believes he can make a big difference in India.

'I hope we'll play sensible but aggressive cricket,' he said.

Ready for action: Spinner Graeme Swann

Ready for action: Spinner Graeme Swann

'Nobody can be more destructive, of course, than Kevin Pietersen and his return to the dressing room has been very smooth.

'I think that was always going to be the case after those meetings with
him in Oxford before the tour. That effectively killed off anything that
happened during the summer and it's been the normal mickey-taking and
banter with Kevin.

'In any dressing room, there are always leg-pulling comments. Although I
must be honest and say Kevin is not the butt of most of the jokes
because there are one or two players specially reserved for that!

'Now we want the cricket to do the talking. And I'm sure Kevin feels the same way.'

England captain Cook would not be drawn on his plans to replace Finn in the bowling line-up, and resented the accusation that he was picking from the also-rans.

He told Sky Sports News: 'I wouldn't call them back-up bowlers, they're all vying for a place to play in this XI, to be lucky enough to play for England.

'They've all worked hard to get used to these conditions and as selectors we've got a tough decision to make.'

Cook admitted he had not been out to check on the condition of the wicket at Ahmedabad since yesterday morning.

'Wickets change a lot in 24 hours,' he added. 'Yesterday it looked quite a dry wicket and I think it's been relaid so not much first-class cricket has been played on it.'

Alastair Cook says India not planning spinners in warm-up matches could backfire

India spin ploy could backfire, says captain Cook ahead of first Test

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 11 November 2012

In a spin: England have faced a seam diet

In a spin: England have faced a seam diet

Alastair Cook has spoken of the confidence among England’s batsmen going into Thursday’s first Test against India – despite the local tactics of limiting their exposure to spin.

Jonathan Trott became the fifth member of the touring party to score a hundred during the three warm-up games as the four-day match against Haryana ended in a draw. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who has won 13 Test caps for India, bowled only 17.1 of his side’s 193.3 overs, claiming he had a cut on his spinning finger.

‘Everyone in the batting unit is feeling confident now,’ said Cook. ‘I don’t know if Mishra was injured or not, but he didn’t bowl many overs. Clearly there has been a message of some kind not to bowl spin. Who knows whether it will backfire on India. Only the next four games will tell us that.’

Stuart Broad bowled in the nets on Sunday for the first time since bruising his left heel eight days ago, but needs two more sessions before he can be declared fit. ‘It feels OK,’ he said afterwards. ‘But maybe it was the adrenaline.’

Up and running: Broad (left) and Finn (right) bowl in the nets on Sunday

Up and running: Broad (left) and Finn (right) bowl in the nets on Sunday

Broad was accompanied by Steven Finn, who sent down some practice overs for the third day in a row as he recovers from a thigh strain.

Cook said: ‘It is encouraging to see Stuart and Finny back bowling, but the next few days are vital for them and we must go into that game with a fully fit attack. They have to be 100 per cent. Clearly, we’ve got to be very careful.’

Tim Bresnan is lying in wait for a Test appearance should one of the pair fail to recover in time. He took two wickets on Sunday as Haryana finished on 133 for six.

Graeme Swann has flown back to India after spending a few days at home with his wife and baby, who has been unwell.

Warning: Cook (left) thinks India's plan could backfire

Warning: Cook (left) thinks India's plan could backfire

The Indian cricket board have reacted with fury to suggestions that their World Cup semi-final win over Pakistan last year might have been fixed.

The claim appears in Bookie, Gambler, Fixer, Spy – the book by Ed Hawkins serialised by Sportsmail.

BCCI president N Srinivasan said: ‘This is the farthest from the truth. And it’s an insult to the Indian team which worked hard to win.’

Ijaz Butt, who was chairman of the Pakistan CB when the game in question took place, has called for his board to take the issue up with the ICC.

Stuart Broad and Steven Finn pass nets test as England draw with Haryana

Broad and Finn pass nets test as England's final warm-up in India ends in a draw

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UPDATED:

11:07 GMT, 11 November 2012

England's final warm-up match before Thursday's first Test against India finished in a predictable draw here in Ahmedabad today – but not before their bowlers had claimed six of Haryana's second-innings wickets and both Stuart Broad and Steven Finn emerged unscathed from a session in the nearby nets.

Supervised by fielding coach Richard Halsall, the two fast bowlers got through about five overs each as they seek to recover from niggles in time for the Test.

For Broad, it was a first run-out since bruising his left heel seven days ago during the game against Mumbai A. Finn, meanwhile, has now bowled practice overs on three successive days, and showed no ill-effects from the thigh strain that interrupted his tour on the first morning against India A.

Full Monty: Panesar took a wicket as England ended their last warm-up match in a positive manner

Full Monty: Panesar took a wicket as England ended their last warm-up match in a positive manner

Haryana v England

Click here for full scorecard

To play both men in the first Test would be a risk. Finn has sent down only four first-class overs on this trip, and Broad 10. But it is a risk England may decide to take as they look to hit India hard at the start of the four-match series.

The hosts' perceived weakness against the short ball – and these things are relative – is one of the few comfort blankets for England to cling on to. Without Broad or Finn, that tactic becomes non-starter.

One certainty is that Graeme Swann will take his place in the Ahmedabad Test. England's No 1 spinner is due to return to India tomorrow morning after spending some time back home with his wife and baby daughter, who has been unwell.

Events on the field on the last day of four felt suitably low-key, with Tim Bresnan taking the chance to remind the selectors that he is ready to step in should others not make it in time.

After taking three wickets in the first
innings, Bresnan added two more after tea as Haryana closed on 133 for 6
when the teams shook hands shortly after 4pm local time. There was a
successful lbw shout apiece for Stuart Meaker, Samit Patel and Monty
Panesar, while Graham Onions chipped in late on.

Final preparations: England took six wickets on the final day of their last warm-up

Final preparations: England took six wickets on the last day of their last warm-up

Final preparations: England took six wickets on the last day of their last warm-up

Earlier, Jonathan Trott became the fifth England batsman to score a century out here before he retired on 101. He even hit a six – something he is yet to manage from the 5,626 deliveries he has faced in Test cricket. No wonder the bowler, Haryana’s stocky medium-pacer Chanderpal Saini, looked put out.

Each of the Test top seven has now made at least one fifty, with additional hundreds for Alastair Cook and Patel in the first match, Jonny Bairstow in the second, and Kevin Pietersen here.

Thrown into the mix today was 79 from Nick Compton, who was 54 overnight, and has now hit three fifties in a row after beginning the tour with 0 and 1; and 48 from Ian Bell, who continues to look elegant in patches.

There was a flurry of wickets ahead of England’s declaration on 254 for 7, including second-ball ducks for both Patel and Pietersen. But the pieces may just be starting to fall into place for Cook’s team. We’ll know more when the first Test finally gets under way on Thursday.

Net result: Broad and Finn showed no ill-effects during their bowling session

Net result: Broad and Finn showed no ill-effects during their bowling session

Net result: Broad and Finn showed no ill-effects during their bowling session

EXCLUSIVE: Stuart Broad"s heel injury could scupper England"s hopes in India

EXCLUSIVE: Broad's heel injury could scupper England's chances in India Test series

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 10 November 2012

England expect to discover on Saturday whether fast bowler Stuart Broad will be fit for the opening Test against India this week – or if injury will force him out of the opening two Tests at least.

After Broad's involvement in the second warm-up match of the tour against Mumbai A was cut short last week, England's management denied that they were concerned about his fitness for the series.

And even after a scan showed he had a bruised left heel, they continued to insist the problem was no more serious than a 'fast bowler's niggle' and that he was not a doubt for the first Test, which starts in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

All smiles: Stuart Broad's injured heel could cause England's vicecaptain to miss the first two Tests in India

All smiles: Stuart Broad's injured heel could cause England's vicecaptain to miss the first two Tests in India

But while Steven Finn's thigh strain, suffered on day one of the tour against India A, has healed well enough for the Middlesex giant to be in genuine contention, concerns are growing over Broad, who was appointed England's vicecaptain at the start of the tour to new leader Alastair Cook.

Stuart Meaker, called up for the first Test as cover for Finn, said: 'Looking at how Steven Finn is going, he's getting closer and closer to being ready.'

England's original rehabilitation plan for Broad was that he would sit out the final warm-up match in Haryana, completed on Friday, then test his fitness in the nets on Sunday with a view to playing in the Test three days later.

Sources within the coaching staff suggested on Friday that Finn had a better chance of playing than Broad but on Friday a team spokesman suggested that the latter might not bowl until Tuesday.

That fuelled fears that the first Test is too soon to risk him and put a question-mark over his participation in the second, starting in Mumbai on November 23.

The only cure for a bruised heel is rest, depending on the severity of the injury, for a minimum of two weeks.

In contention: Steven Finn has healed well from a thigh strain

In contention: Steven Finn has healed well from a thigh strain

That could even rule Broad out for the first half of the four-match series, with no practice match scheduled between the second Test in Mumbai and the third in Kolkata to prove his fitness in match conditions.

If Broad is not completely fit, he could play on Thursday only after an injection or relying on painkillers, but England will be aware that the effect of such action might put him at risk for the rest of the tour.

Broad is considered vital to England's chance of victory on the Sub-continent for the first time in nearly 30 years, since David Gower's side won 2-1 in 1984- 85.

Despite criticism for what some perceived as a dip in speed and penetration during the summer, the 26-year-old paceman arrived in India as the leading Test wicket-taker in world cricket for 2012.

Vital: Broad's contribution is considered essential if England are to succeed in India

Vital: Broad's contribution is considered essential if England are to succeed in India

Forty scalps in nine matches, against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa, put him one ahead of Vernon Philander, Saeed Ajmal, Kemar Roach and Graeme Swann and 13 ahead of Dale Steyn, considered the most dangerous quickie on the planet.

If India want reminding of his threat, they need only recall his man-of-the-series performance against them during England's 4-0 win on home soil last year.

His 25 wickets at 13.84 included 7-94 and 8-76 at Trent Bridge, featuring the first Test hat-trick on that ground, and fuelled England's drive to the top of the ICC world rankings.

Broad also showed his ability to take wickets in seemingly placid batting conditions by taking 13 against Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in January.