Less than three months after suffering a stress-fracture in his lower-back, Toby-Roland Jones has joined up with the ECB’s Pace Programme ahead of their camp to Desert Springs.
“He’s completed six bowling sessions with Middlesex, and he’s been with us at Loughborough for three days this week,” announced Kevin Shine, the ECB fast bowling coach who heads up the programme. “It’s great to see Toby on the road back, and for us to be able to offer him the chance to do plenty of bowling outdoors and other specific training this winter.”
This news will come as a boost to Roland-Jones, whose Ashes dreams went up in smoke after picking up the injury towards the back-end of the county season. It was a cruel blow for the 29-year-old, denying him near-certain selection on the tour, off the back of what had been a fruitful summer for the seamer, picking up 17 wickets in his first four Tests.
He will likely take part in the programme through much of the winter, leading up to the Test series in New Zealand. Shine adds: “We have further Pace Programme camps in the New Year in Potchefstroom in South Africa and then back at Desert Springs, and then there’s the possibility of the Lions tour of West Indies in February and March as another staging post for Toby before England play a couple of Tests in New Zealand in April.”
Roland-Jones joins up with seven other seamers on the programme, including Reece Topley, Jamie Overton and Jamie Porter, all recovering from back-problems of their own. “It is one of the reasons we have the Pace Programme,” Shine added. “This year the guys have been able to do more bowling before Christmas, on the back of some new research suggesting a complete shut down from bowling for long periods of time increases injury risk.
“The aim is to reinforce the physical foundations required for international fast bowling. In the 10 or 12 years since we started it, the programme has evolved to develop the athleticism of our talented bowlers.
“Unfortunately, fast bowling is always going to be a brutal business, as these lads can all confirm.”
Overton, who’s brother Craig just made his debut for England in Adelaide, has not played since an impressive performance for the Lions in June, while Topley, still only 23, racked up the fourth stress-facture of his career back in August.
But the programme is not just designed for building-up fitness. “There’s been a growing focus on things like running technique, movement patterns, mobility, co-ordination and agility,” says Shine. “And of course we also work on the craft and skills of fast bowling, as well as the technical areas surrounding pace.”