Joe Root still has his eye on a comeback this month, after five X-rays and counting on his badly-broken right thumb.
The 23-year-old ended an exacting 2013/14 by making his maiden one-day international century in Antigua – only to discover his thumb had been “shattered into eight pieces”.
He was hit by a short ball from Ravi Rampaul when he had made just a single but went on to make 107 as England beat West Indies for the only series victory of their unsuccessful winter.
Root was told on arrival home to anticipate a six-week recovery after being ruled out of both the Twenty20s against the Windies and then the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
He has heard nothing yet in a string of subsequent consultations to make him think otherwise.
“I hope by the end of the month I’ll be back playing some cricket,” said the Yorkshire batsman, still wearing protective cover on his thumb and just before his latest appointment with that X-ray machine.
“All being well, that game at Middlesex (on April 27) is one I’ll be looking to try to play in.”
Root, who yesterday signed a two-year contract extension at Yorkshire that will keep him at his native county until at least December 2016, has spent many hours over the past month en route to and from those hospital check-ups.
“I’ve had about five X-rays,” he said, “so it’s quite nice to see the progression. I hope I get some better news today, and (then) it will almost be looking in one piece.”
He added: “It was a weird one. When it happened I actually thought I’d done ligaments or muscle in the bottom of my thumb – that’s (where) it really hurt. The adrenaline, and some nice pain-killers from the doctor, got me through (the innings).
“Then I went for an X-ray, and the one over there said I had one small crack and one near the joint. But I got back here, saw a specialist and had it done again – and there were about eight pieces.”
He has yet to pick up a bat in anger, of course, but added: “I’ve got some movement at the joint now, which I didn’t have before.
“The swelling is starting to go down a little bit.
“It’s still very misshapen. I don’t think I’m going to get my normal shape back in it.
“But that’s part of being a cricketer. You’ve got to take these knocks on the chin and come back.
“It shattered into eight pieces. But I was quite lucky it was only in the end point of my bone.”
Root’s misfortune brought an early end for him to a winter which could scarcely have gone worse for England.
They began it with high hopes of a historic fourth consecutive Ashes victory, and second in six months.
By the end, after their 5-0 whitewash by Australia, they had lost record runscorer Kevin Pietersen – axed by the England and Wales Cricket Board – and team director Andy Flower, who resigned.
England reached a new low when they lost to minnows Holland in their final fixture, a dead rubber between World Twenty20 also-rans.
Root, a long-distance spectator by then, does not try to put a gloss on events.
“It was tough,” he said.
“As a team, I think it caught everyone off guard a little bit really.
“I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked in Australia. That is quite obvious.”