Dave Middleton & Martin Smith
Dave Middleton & Martin Smith
Nathan Coulter-Nile has been sidelined with an "aggravation" of a previous stress fracture that curtails his Ashes dreams but could see him return to cricket at the back end of the summer.
The 30-year-old Western Australia quick had played his first JLT Sheffield Shield match in more than two years in the opening round of this year's competition, bowling 15 overs against Tasmania. He was rested from the second round of the Shield competition, and instead bowled 16 overs in a day as captain of the WA XI that played a tour match against England.
He reported significant soreness the day after that match finished, and it has been reported that scans showed a hot spot in his lower spine.
Cricket Australia Sports Science and Sports Medicine Manager Alex Kountouris said: "Nathan experienced some pain in his back following the two-day tour match against England last week.
"Subsequent scans have revealed an early stage aggravation of his old stress fracture. Whilst this is a setback, the good news is that it has been picked up early so we are only considering a short break from bowling while we monitor him.
"We expect he will have further scans over the next month which will determine when he can return to bowling."
The fresh injury is a cruel blow to the likeable WA speedster who had been a leading contender on the fringe of Test selection for this summer's Magellan Ashes.
Given the possibility that pace reinforcements could be needed during a five-Test Ashes series, the 30-year-old had loomed as one of the leading contenders to step up to the Australia side should injury strike one of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Pat Cummins. Jackson Bird is Australia's first-choice back-up, and that quartet will train together in Brisbane next week in preparation for the first Ashes Test.
Coulter-Nile's injury follows the long-term setback suffered by James Pattinson, who was ruled out of this summer in early October, and now faces spinal surgery in a last-ditch bid to fix a recurring stress fracture that threatens to end his Test career.
Coulter-Nile had been player of the match in the opening JLT Sheffield Shield round last month, having taken 1-23 in nine overs and 3-18 in just six overs, as well as innings of 42 and 52 with the bat.
But in a bid to ease him into the intense workload first-class cricket requires, he was rested from the second round of Shield cricket and instead captained a WA XI in a two-day tour match against England.
In August, Coulter-Nile revealed he had been on the verge of walking away from Australian cricket to become a travelling T20 specialist before being selected in the ODI squad that toured India in September.
"I lost my Australian contract and Greg Chappell came on as a selector (in a new role) and we all know he's got a big youth focus," Coulter-Nile told Seven West Media.
"I was having a good IPL at the time so I thought I could probably just do this. I thought it might be time just to focus on forging a career in T20s.
"On reflection and thinking about it and speaking to JL (Justin Langer) and blokes like that, I just thought I really want to play Test cricket.
"That was my dream as a kid and it's still my dream now. The desire was there and JL said look there's 400-odd players who have ever played Test cricket for Australia. It's not something just to pass off lightly. After thinking about it for a good while I decided to give it another crack."
He returned with a bang, and was easily Australia's best bowler on the tough tour of India, collecting 12 wickets having played every match of the tour. He then took two wickets in one JLT One-Day Cup appearance before adding four in the Shield.
He was then slotted into the side to face England amid concerns about his workload.
"He hasn't played back-to-back first class games since 2015," WA coach Justin Langer said after the first Shield round.
"We are mindful of this and want to ensure his return to this level of cricket is managed appropriately to give him the best chance this season. He is coping pretty well in his return from injury but he is still building up to the levels required for consecutive first-class matches."
The right-armer bowled 16 overs against England, including the wicket of former skipper Alastair Cook with his second ball. After initially pulling up well from the outing, he then reported soreness in the back and scans revealed the fresh injury.
After a horror streak with various ailments, Coulter-Nile had been enjoying a rare extended run of good health. He was Australia's best bowler on their recent limited-overs tour of India, where he played every match.
"Literally my goal this year, because I did think I'd be playing for Australia this early, is to have a good consistent year body wise for WA," Coulter-Nile told cricket.com.au after the India tour.
"I thought if I could do that and was playing games back-to-back for WA, that I think the results would take care of themselves so now I guess it's just to try and perform and stay in the park."
Coulter-Nile's injury timeline
Nov 2017:aggravates previous stress fracture
May 2017: missed three IPL games with concussion
Aug 2016: sent home from Sri Lanka tour with bone stress injury in back
Dec 2015: dislocated right shoulder in BBL game. Withdrawn from Test squad and spends three months sidelined
Oct 2015: injured left shoulder in domestic-one day match for WA
Sept 2015: sent home from England ODI tour with right hamstring issue
Nov 2014: tears left hamstring at MCG v South Africa. Ruled out of World Cup
Sept 2014: Calf issue forces him out of T20 Champions Trophy
June 2014: opts for hamstring surgery after fresh injury
March - May 2014: suffers a series of 'minor' hamstring injuries
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21