Ollie Robinson's hopes of an imminent Test recall have hit another setback, after he was forced to withdraw from the County Select XI to face the touring New Zealanders at Chelmsford on Thursday, having reported stiffness in his back during the pre-match warm-up.
Robinson, one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, made his Test debut almost exactly 12 months ago, against New Zealand at Lord's, where he overcame an off-field furore surrounding his historical offensive tweets to claim seven wickets in the match and cement his status as one of the best English-style seamers in the game.
He went on to claim 28 wickets at 19.60 in his maiden home season, and proved that his style could be effective overseas as well with 11 more at 25.54 in England's Ashes campaign. However, doubts about his fitness began to surface on that tour, and having sat out the Sydney Test, he bowled just 19 overs across two innings in the series finale at Hobart after succumbing to a back spasm.
Jon Lewis, England's bowling coach, called him out following his first-innings breakdown, stating that "we've been pretty frank with him. And now it's up to him to go and do the work."
But, having been selected for England's three-Test tour of the Caribbean - nominally as the attack leader following the controversial omissions of James Anderson and Stuart Broad - Robinson suffered a recurrence of his back spasm during England's solitary warm-up in Antigua, and did not play any part in the series.
Upon his return to England, the start to Robinson's county season with Sussex suffered numerous disruptions, including a tooth infection that delayed his first appearance until the visit of Middlesex in early May. Although he impressed with five first-innings wickets, a bout of food poisoning then disrupted his next appearance against Leicestershire at Grace Road.
He bowled one over in the first innings, and just seven on the third day, including four overs of offspin. He had a better workout for New Zealand's subsequent tour game at Hove, bowling 18 economical - albeit wicketless - overs in a rain-affected contest.
But, having already been omitted from England's squad for the first two Tests of the New Zealand tour, and with the Vitality Blast now dominating the county schedules, Robinson now has a solitary Championship game, against Glamorgan in Cardiff from June 12, to press his case for inclusion for the third Test at Headingley, which begins on June 23.
"Ollie felt a bit of stiffness in his back while he was warming up this morning before the game," Richard Dawson, the ECB's pathways coach who is overseeing this match. "We had a chat and felt as a precaution that it was sensible for him to sit out this match. We'll assess him and move forward from there."
In his absence, Middlesex's Ethan Bamber was called into the Select XI squad as cover, and made an appearance in the afternoon session, with the match's non-first-class status permitting both teams to rotate their players.