England off-spinner Graeme Swann faces a race against time to be fit for this year's Ashes double-header after injury forced him out of the Test series against New Zealand.
Swann was a surprise omission from the tourists' side to face the Black Caps in the opening Test in Dunedin, with officials later confirming a long-standing problem with his right elbow had flared up, requiring surgery.
"[He] clearly couldn't get through the five days," England captain Alastair Cook said after Monty Panesar was named to replace Swann in the first Test, with James Tredwell joining the squad as cover for the rest of the series.
Swann had bone fragments removed from his elbow in 2009 but the surgery was only partially successful and the 33-year-old said he experienced pain in the joint during a warm-up loss to a New Zealand XI last week.
In a column for Britain's Sun newspaper this week, he said he feared the troublesome elbow could jeopardise his chances of playing in home-and-away Ashes series this year.
Two editions of the marquee series against Australia are being played back-to-back to avoid a clash with the 2015 World Cup, setting up what Swann said was "arguably England's greatest year of Test cricket ever".
"It would be a massive pain in the backside if my wonky elbow forced me to miss any of the Tests against Australia," he wrote.
"I'm absolutely determined to be available for what might be my final two Ashes series and that means managing the elbow as well as possible."
The England and Wales Cricket Board estimates Swann will be back by "early summer" after surgery in the United States next week, a tight deadline if he is to make the squad for England's home Ashes series starting on July 10.
Swann has earned 50 Test caps in a career that includes two victorious Ashes series, with the spinner playing a key role both times in preventing Australia from winning the urn.
First Published: March 6, 2013, 11:46 am