Chester-le-Street: It is the lot of the understudy that even when an opportunity arises for them to show their paces, attention can remain fixed on the star of the show. So it was for James Tredwell. As he prepared for a potential international comeback against Australia, it was the fitness of Graeme Swann ahead of the marquee Test series against South Africa that really mattered.
As England's NatWest series against Australia reached its penultimate game and rain lashed the north-east, forcing both sides to practice indoors, discussions were already underway about whether Swann needs to prove his elbow injury has stabilised in time for the first Test against South Africa at The Oval, which starts in just under two weeks' time.
This is not quite the routine injury England would have you believe. For Swann's elbow read Flintoff's knee - a slight exaggeration perhaps but it is a known vulnerability. He refers in his autobiography, The Breaks Are Off, to "career-saving surgery" in Minnesota three years ago, when the renowned elbow surgeon Shawn O'Driscoll found 29 fragments of bone and removed 26 of them, leaving only the three that were too close to the nerve for extraction.