November 22, 2010

Ashes 2010-11

Australia's 'virtual' preparation for the Ashes

Peter English

What's the best way for an under-pressure batsman to prepare for a defining Test? Face a virtual bowling attack consisting of James Pattinson, Moises Henriques, Josh Hazlewood, Shane Warne and Saqlain Mushtaq.

Australia have a new Ashes weapon in the high-tech Probatter system, and Michael Hussey was the first to try it out at Australia's opening training session for Thursday's first Ashes Test at the Gabba. Hussey's form has been under intense scrutiny and he had to seal his spot in the squad with a century for Western Australia last week.

Hussey started off in the net by facing Pattinson - the real version is currently carrying a stress fracture - in a custom-made shed at Allan Border Field. The back wall carries a vision of the bowler running in, and at delivery, a ball is powered out of a hole, at a speed determined by the computer modelling.

Unfortunately the bowling options don't contain James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann, but the exercise does provide a struggling batsman with another line in self-justification. "I'm feeling great against the virtual bowler, it's just a matter of transferring it to the middle," they can now say.

Shane Watson was not convinced by the technology and left the nets after being bowled and caught behind in three balls. "I'll try anything once," he said as he walked out.

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Peter English is former Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

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