Jos Buttler admitted he “feared the worst” the moment he saw his shot crash into the helmet of opponent Pathum Nissanka during England’s drawn Test warm-up in Colombo.
Buttler was batting in the afternoon session when he cracked a powerful pull shot straight at the Sri Lanka Board XI’s short-leg fielder, who crouched for cover, but could not avoid a nasty blow.
The ball ricocheted to leg-slip and was caught, but Buttler’s mind was not on losing his own wicket, with Nissanka clearly in pain as he lay prone on the turf.
England’s medical team – doctor Moiz Moghal, physio Craig de Weymarn and massage therapist Mark Saxby – were quickly on hand to offer assistance, helping place the 20-year-old in a head brace and onto a stretcher before an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.
Coach Avishka Gunawardene later described Nissanka, who complained of neck pain during the episode, “as stable and conscious” ahead of an MRI scan.
Speaking after stumps, Buttler said: “You always fear the worst, I think.
“I hit him very hard and straight in the middle of the helmet and luckily the medics rushed straight on and treated him.
“You’re just worried, and that is the nature of it, you don’t mean to cause injury, but it is a real unfortunate accident.
“You don’t really care about getting out, you just hope the lad is okay. But we’ve got a great doctor and physio here and they did a good job.”
The final session of the match saw the Board XI decline to post any close catchers, an entirely understandable decision which nevertheless removed an element of tension from the game as Joe Root put the finishing touches to an unbeaten century in a final score of 365 for seven.
Buttler accepted a certain competitive edge was missing, but still rated the evening’s play as an important part of the preparations for next week’s first Test in Galle, when England can once again expect fielders swarming round the bat.
“Perhaps it took something (out of the game) but it is hard for someone to go in there so soon after something like that happens,” he said.
“The guys still had some good time in the middle, whether short-leg is in there or not it is good to acclimatise.”
On a purely cricketing level, the first of England’s two warm-up matches yielded few firm conclusions about the likely composition of the Test XI.
On day one it was hard to pick between Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes for what is expected to be one seamer’s slot, while the second day saw Keaton Jennings (13) and Joe Denly (25) in underwhelming form in a new-look top three.
Rory Burns’ confident 47 at least marked him out from the pack, but even the identity of the wicketkeeper is currently unknown.
First-choice Jonny Bairstow has been injured, but returned to net practice on Wednesday, while Buttler, Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope shared the glovework in his absence.