- England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord's
Fired up Bresnan feels zip is back
Tim Bresnan has Alastair Cook in his sights over the next two days at Lord's as he attempts to secure a recall for the opening Test against New Zealand. The England captain could be in for an uncomfortable time.
Cook briefly netted against James Anderson and Stuart Broad on Monday but practice will go up in intensity on Tuesday with Bresnan keen to show that he is worth a starting place after recovering from the elbow problem that hampered him for much of the previous year.
"I would not be surprised if the net rota goes up and I'm bowling at him," Bresnan said. "I think that is one of the things Andy Flower likes to do."
He has taken 13 County Championship wickets at 27.07 for Yorkshire this season and believes he is back "as good as ever" after having a piece of bone removed from his right elbow. But he is still expected to be the 12th man when the coin goes up and that is something he is desperate to change over the next few days.
"I am not here to carry the drinks," he said. "I am here to play the game and throw my hat in the ring for selection. I think the next two days will tell the management and Cooky a lot about where I am at and what I can do.
"I probably lost three or four yards of pace to be honest. I feel I have got that back. I can sit here and say whatever but it is just as easy to show everyone. I can spin a yarn and say it is all brilliant or I can just get on the park and show you what my pace is like. I have not been in front of a speed gun but it feels alright."
Bresnan has actually only missed England's most recent three Tests having previously played in Nagpur. But at the conclusion of that match, where he went wicketless for the second time in the India series, he had taken two wickets at 210 in his last four outings dating back to the start of the South Africa series.
His last telling contribution with the red ball - his one-day form had not quite suffered in the same way, with 10 overs proving more manageable - had been against West Indies, at Trent Bridge, where he took the Man-of-the-Match award for eight wickets. At that point in his career he had 52 wickets at 25.46 and his 13 Tests had all been England victories.
But for him to plot a route back into the Test team for the first match of the season he will need to get past Steven Finn, who took six wickets in his last outing in Auckland, although those figures flattered him. Finn has not been at his best for Middlesex this season with seven wickets at 39.57 in three matches, which is one more appearance than either Broad or Anderson after the ECB made Finn available against Warwickshire.
Just as these next few days are important for Bresnan, they are equally so for Finn. His Test record - 80 wickets at 29.60 - is far from poor, but he has yet to completely convince that he has found his stride. The work on his run-up has played a part and he was back to the longer version at Edgbaston last week, suggesting the switch has not gone entirely to plan.
In Finn's favour, when it comes to a head-to-head with Bresnan, is an impressive record at Lord's (his home ground) where he has taken 25 wickets at 21.44 in four Tests. That included his maiden five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in 2010 and eight wickets in the match against South Africa last year in what was his most consistent Test appearance. Bresnan, by contrast, has five wickets at 66.00 from his three appearances at Lord's.
Yet, the fact that Bresnan is already back in the Test reckoning is a credit to his hard work which included a spell at the National Sports Centre at Bisham Abbey. Bresnan admitted he was not a "deep thinker" about life, but conceded to a few uneasy thoughts before he had the operation after the one-day series in India.
"A couple of hours before the operation you think this could go one or two ways," he said. "I might never play for England or cricket again or I might be back better than ever. You have to weigh up that risk and then decide yes, put in the effort and get on with it again."
So far, that effort has been worth every hour of rehab and painful gym sessions. Now he aims to make life tough for a few of his team-mates.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo