England's battle lines were thrown into disarray, before the post-Kevin Pietersen era has even started, when Ian Bell edged a ball into his face in practice.

Bell was just about the last person England needed to suffer an injury scare on the eve of the NatWest Series against West Indies. But that is what happened in the Ageas Bowl indoor nets on Friday morning, where an attempted pull-shot resulted in a deep gash to his chin and a dash to hospital for stitches and to check whether his jaw might be broken.

Bell, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed later, has suffered a possible non-displaced fracture to his jaw, but he has not been ruled out of the match.

Bell had to have 10 stitches in the wound, but the Warwickshire man will not necessarly miss Saturday's ODI. When Bell returned to the ground, a collective sense of relief appeared to accompany him.

Captain Alastair Cook addressed the press during the hours of peak anxiety which immediately followed Bell's mishap against routine throw-downs from Richard Halsall.

"Ian Bell got hit in the nets and has got a gash on his chin," said the man who will now discover for definite only on Saturday morning who his latest England opening partner will be.

"He's gone off for an X-ray, but we don't know what the situation is yet.

"It is a concern, because he didn't look in a good way when he walked off. There was quite a lot of blood, and he has had stitches."

England were forced to consider their contingency plans, and it seems elevation for Cook's Essex team-mate Ravi Bopara was the likely preferred option.

"We will have to play it by ear," said Cook.