Gloucestershire v Australia A, Bristol, 2nd day June 22, 2013

Bad day for Ashes hopefuls

Gloucestershire 122 (Sayers 5-24) and 162 for 3 (Dent 56) need 159 runs to beat Australia A 331 for 4 declared and 111 (Gidman 4-25)

Driving to Bristol for a round of pre-Ashes preparatory talks with a strong overnight score in their minds, Australia's coach Mickey Arthur and the team performance manager Pat Howard could have been forgiven for expecting more encouraging developments on their arrival. Instead the sunshine and good cheer of day one was to be replaced by far grimmer stuff - and not just because the weather in Bristol had turned from balmy to a chill wind and grey sky.

Having rounded up the remainder of the Gloucestershire first innings for the addition of only 18 more runs, Australia A folded quite heedlessly for 111 in the second innings after declining to enforce the follow-on. This offered the hosts an unexpected window into the match, one left well and truly open by a stumps score of 162 for 3 in pursuit of 321.

Arthur and Howard have a few issues in front of them, but the form of the batsmen to join the Ashes squad in Taunton on Monday is a mounting one. As far as Ashes preparations were concerned, this was a far from satisfactory day. Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes were unable to register scores of any note, while the likely first reserve batsman Steve Smith edged the seaming ball to be out for a duck. The trio had been promoted to Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the batting order in an effort to give them some quality batting time, but none was to be had by anyone.

Even Nic Maddinson, so impudent during his first-day 181, was cut down to size, flicking a catch down the leg side to depart first ball. Maddinson was one of four wickets for Will Gidman, who capitalised on the more generous allocation of swing and seam provided by overcast skies and a pitch freshened by overnight moisture.

Gloucestershire were also aided by a pair of run-outs, each a direct hit from James Fuller, who roamed the deep and caught, first Khawaja and then Jordan Silk, short of their ground. Such charity from the visitors will not have pleased the bowlers, who soon found themselves defending a smaller advantage than had seemed possible when Smith chose to have another bat.

So poor was Australia A's innings in fact that the top score went to Matthew Wade with 28, his runs scored either side of a painful blow to the groin that forced the wicketkeeper to his haunches for several minutes. Ashton Agar was next best with 27, demonstrating, albeit briefly, that his languid athletic talent is not limited to slow left-arm spin. Nonetheless, a scoreboard reading 88 for 8 and then concluding on "Nelson" does not bode well for numerologists nor Australian Ashes optimists.

To be in the field again within 35.1 overs of dismissing Gloucestershire the first time did not appear to agree with several of the Australia A bowlers, who with few exceptions had been much sharper when the day began. Ryan Harris induced an outside edge from Gidman in the first over of the morning, before Fawad Ahmed offered evidence of his legspin's bite by having Benny Howell pouched at slip, then fizzing his next ball past Tom Smith's outside edge.

Neither Harris nor Ahmed would be quite so compelling in the afternoon, which also provided a lesson for Chadd Sayers, the South Australian seam and swing operative. Having nipped out two wickets in his first over of the day to claim the handsome figures of 5 for 24, Sayers looked considerably short of rhythm and accuracy when he returned. He did improve later on and added the wickets of Chris Dent and Dan Housego, but Gloucestershire were by then growing in confidence.

They reached the close with Gareth Roderick accompanied by Dan Christian, who appeared intent on getting the better of his countrymen while sprinting to 40 from 42 balls in the final hour. He took a particular liking to the spin of Ahmed, taking 35 runs from the 31 balls he faced. As they pondered whether to expand the size of the Ashes squad by one or two on Sunday, that was yet another reason for Arthur and Howard's brows to furrow.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here