Australia coach Tim Nielsen thanked England for their “fine gesture” after granting a late change to the tourists’ line-up in the Edgbaston Test.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin injured his left index finger in the warm-ups ahead of a delayed 5pm start – it was later revealed to be broken – which meant the Australians sought a late change to their XI.
With the toss having already taken place, however, it required special dispensation from England to grant the call-up of debutant Graham Manou as a replacement.
This Ashes series has featured some fractious moments, including Australia captain Ricky Ponting questioning the spirit in which England closed out the drawn first Test and England captain Andrew Strauss being caught up in a catch controversy at Lord’s.
But after Australia team manager Steve Bernard informed match referee Jeff Crowe of the calamity, the decision was ultimately left up to Strauss.
“To refuse is well within his rights,” said Nielsen. “We asked the question, that’s all we could do, and if he had refused we would have an issue on our hands of how we were going to deal with it.
“It was a fine gesture. We used the England team doctor to assess Brad’s finger, the process worked really well and for the game’s sake we are now going to have 11 fit blokes on each team.”
Ironically, the pre-match incident occurred close to where Glenn McGrath fatefully trod on a loose ball four years ago and was forced out of the match.
Haddin, who was in the vicinity that day, was catching deliveries from the fast bowlers this time when he took a blow and later required an X-ray.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, who took England’s wicket as Australia closed a rain-delayed opening day on 126 for one, said: “We’ve got no problem with it, I think it’s only fair we let Manou play because we’d hope in a similar situation we’d have the same courtesy shown to us.”
Haddin had wanted to play but is now a major doubt for next week’s penultimate match of the npower campaign at Headingley.
The day began in bizarre circumstances for Australia when opener Phillip Hughes revealed his omission via a post on Twitter.
His manager Neil D’Costa later apologised for jumping the gun, which had angered Cricket Australia.
“I can’t honestly tell you how Twitter works,” Nielsen said. “But it is one of those things that happen with the way the world works these days, in terms of communication.
“We have made them aware that those sort of things are needed to be kept in-house until they are announced officially.”
Hughes’ replacement Shane Watson finished unbeaten on 62 as Australia’s move to open with a man whose previous highest Test batting position was six paid off.
Nielsen said: “We know he brings a nice balance to the group with his bowling also. Phil has been under some pressure from their fast bowlers, we recognised that, and with Shane being our spare batsman it was a positive move to make.”
England were nevertheless surprised to see Watson opening up, perhaps because they have become so accustomed to Australia’s left-hander policy at the top of the order.
In fact, Watson was the first right-hander to go in first for Australia since Michael Slater, 93 Tests and eight years ago.
“I was surprised because I didn’t realise he was an opening batsman,” said Swann. “But he played like one today.
“We had some good plans to Hughes that appeared to be working well. Now they’ve got a new guy in, we’ve obviously got to go back to the drawing board.”