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June 21, 2012
Australians 241 for 8 (Warner 74, Hussey 37, Razzaq 3-39) beat Leicestershire 136 (McKay 4-31) by 102 runs D/L
It took until a little after 7pm for some sun to shine on the canary yellow shirts of Australia's cricketers as they familiarised themselves with a grey English summer against Leicestershire. By then Michael Clarke's tourists had the match in their keeping against modest opposition, and more importantly had taken the chance to spread the day's workload widely among an XI with limited experience of winning in England.
Taken in isolation, few of the visitors produced compelling performances. David Warner caught the eye with a percussive 74, and Clint McKay's combination of wholehearted seam-up and the odd perplexing slower ball reaped four wickets, but the rest offered cameos that provided the on-field equivalent of a brief net. A day of 70 overs' cricket was a productive result given the overhead conditions for most of the match, and better than they may get in Belfast against Ireland, where heavy rain is predicted.
Of the batsmen only Shane Watson and Steve Smith failed to see out 20 balls, while all the chosen bowlers put in fair shifts. James Pattinson's first spell on English soil was a decidedly slippery burst of two overs with the new ball that accounted for Leicestershire's acting captain Joshua Cobb and beat the bat half a dozen times, and Watson warmed into his work so effectively that he was taken off after nipping out two home batsmen in his third over.
Mitchell Johnson's return to the Australian XI for the first time since last November's tour of South Africa was less wayward than some of his unhappier English spells have been, but he was the only specialist bowler not to take a wicket once called on, and could not complete the day without hearing a reprise of the heckling he received during the 2010-11 Ashes in Australia. The spinners Xavier Doherty (five overs for 28, one wicket) and Steve Smith were not particularly successful either, and will sympathise with West Indies' Sunil Narine.
Leicestershire's target was first revised to 256 off 41 overs, then became 239 off 36 after the day's third rain interruption. They never threatened, as McKay, Pattinson, and Watson went about their work, held up only briefly by Greg Smith and Matthew Boyce.
Low cloud and misty rain had delayed the toss until midday. Clarke chose to bat, the pitch tinged green but firm enough to reward assertive batsmen, particularly as Leicester's attack was modest. Peter Forrest, Brett Lee, Pat Cummins and Ben Hilfenhaus sat out for the visitors.
Warner opened with Matthew Wade ahead of Watson at No. 3, a shift back to the ODI batting order that had been favoured in Australia. Watson had opened on slower West Indian pitches, the better to capitalise on his muscular hitting while the ball was still new, but he seems more likely to come in at first wicket down as a minor concession to his likely bowling demands on this tour.
Nadeem Malik's opening spell was tidy, leaving Wade and Warner to gain more change from the slippery but less accurate Nathan Buck - an England Lions representative. Wade was the more careful of the two batsmen, playing his first significant innings in England, but both he and Warner split the field often enough in an opening stand of 69 that warded off any perceived threat from the new ball.
It was Abdul Razzaq, the former Pakistan allrounder, who found a way past Wade, straightening one enough to win an lbw verdict as Australia's wicketkeeper failed to get forward. Warner took a liking to the modest left-arm spin of James Sykes, hoisting him for a trio of sixes. They were broken up by the dismissal of Watson, however, who tried to pull a short ball in the same direction but did not clear deep midwicket.
Rain arrived shortly after Clarke had reached the wicket, and the further delay cut the innings by another six overs. Though Warner retired on resumption, his innings left a stronger impression than several that were to follow. Clarke clipped his way to 29 then was bowled slogging at Cobb the ball after lofting him for six, David Hussey played busily but shelled Nadeem into the deep, and George Bailey's 21 was brisk but ended when he failed to cover a Razzaq delivery that snapped back to splay the stumps.
Smith's return to the Australian side after a summer with New South Wales was also underwhelming, tallying only 11 before he too failed to clear the boundary, and McKay could last only one ball against Razzaq. However Johnson and Pattinson hit out well at the end, looking a pair of twins in their upright and powerful left-handed stances.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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