Essex v England, LV= Challenge Match, Chelmsford, 3rd day

England practice descends into farce

The Report by George Dobell in Chelmsford

July 2, 2013

Comments: 45 | Text size: A | A

England 413 for 9 dec and 217 for 3 (Cook 82, Trott 79) lead Essex 278 by 330 runs

Graeme Swann was back bowling on the third morning, Essex v England, 3rd day, Chelmsford, July 2, 2013
Graeme Swann returned to bowling duties after needing an X-ray on his right arm on the second day © PA Photos
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England's pre-Ashes warm-up match against Essex had descended into farce long before the decision was made to rescind its first-class status.

On a deathly slow wicket that bears little comparison to those expected in the Test series, England's batsmen were progressing with facile ease against a medium-pacer who is some way past his best and two part-time offspinners when it was decided that more benefit would be gained from the match if the Essex side was supplemented with higher-quality bowlers.

By the time that the England management started talking to the ECB about bringing in replacement players, Essex had lost David Masters (to an Achilles strain) and Tymal Mills (hamstring). When one of the part-time spinners, Tom Westley, was also forced off the pitch with a dislocated finger, it was decided to draft Boyd Rankin and Reece Topley into the Essex attack without further delay in order to provide more competitive bowling for the England batsman. The ECB, Essex and Warwickshire, Rankin's team, were all consulted and acquiesced.

On one hand that was a shame. Not only did it mean that all the admirable personal achievements from earlier in the game - such as Tim Bresnan's first first-class century since 2007, Tom Craddock's five-wicket haul and Joe Root's career-best figures - were obsolete, it also meant that any intensity this match had possessed was dissipated in a moment. It was not hard to understand the underwhelmed response from the full-house crowd.

But, bearing in mind that the entire point of this game was for England to gain competitive match practice ahead of the Ashes, it was a decision that had some merit. The sight of Westley and Owais Shah bowling from one end and Sajid Mahmood, now a shadow of the fast bowler he once promised to be, operating from the other had rendered this a pointless occasion and, for all the ensuing loss of meaning that followed the decision, England's batsmen did, at least, have to work harder against Rankin and Topley.

England had first looked at the possibility of bringing in replacement players on day two. Fearing for Graeme Swann's participation after he sustained heavy bruising after he was hit on the arm when batting, they began consulting with Essex and the ECB about the possibility of bringing in another player - probably James Tredwell. As it was, Swann recovered and England were keen not to dilute the intensity of the match by downgrading its status.

England had originally requested that Topley, along with Mills, play in this game. They requested that Ben Foakes keep wicket, too, with a view to monitoring his progress. But Topley was deemed in need of a rest after playing regularly of late and, once Mills and Masters limped out of the attack, there was little being gained by Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook moving towards the most undemanding centuries of their careers and they made the decision that bringing in replacement players was the lesser of two evils.

As it was, Trott and Cook retired after withstanding a decent spell from Rankin, who generated decent pace from a surface that has slowed to a funereal pace and will have done his chance of a Test call no harm. He drew an edge from Trott, on 37, that flew through vacant second slip and hit the bat hard and high.

But if Trott and Cook enjoyed some batting practice, there was little opportunity for Ian Bell or Jonny Bairstow. Rain intervened 20 minutes after tea to limit their time in the middle while Kevin Pietersen, who it was decided needed less time in the middle than Bell or Bairstow, may well go into the first Test having had only one first-class innings, for Surrey, since his return from injury.

Earlier in the day Swann eased any injury concerns by returning to the field for the end of the Essex innings. Swann sustained a blow on the right forearm on the second day and subsequently went to hospital for a precautionary X-ray. While the scans showed no fracture, Swann was unable to take any further part and was clearly in some pain.

But any thoughts that he might be unable to bowl in the rest of the game were banished when he wrapped up the Essex innings with his ninth ball on the third day.

Things did not go exactly as he would have liked, though. Swann's first eight deliveries were plundered for 19 runs, with Mills - a No. 11 in the old-school, slogger mode - thrashing his first ball for four and then slogging successive sixes as part of an Essex tenth-wicket stand of 47 in nine overs with Craddock. Mills was finally bowled by a looping offbreak from Swann, but not before he had recorded what was, before the status of the game was changed, a career-best batting effort. Essex conceded a first-innings lead of 135.

Mills also inflicted a bit more physical pain on England. Having struck Swann on the arm and Tim Bresnan on the grill of the helmet, he also thumped a pull into Bell's knees at short leg off the bowling of Steven Finn. Bell did not sustain any serious injury.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 3, 2013, 16:27 GMT)

@JG2704,I agree, but there has to be a balance, and the old system was too swayed to seeing bowlers/batsmen regularly break down due to injury especially in the 90's where Caddick and Ggough would play a county game then roll up to a test match having only 1 or 2 days rest, or not be available due to a shin splint, pulled back becasue the county had wanted more work out of them.

However now its too much the other way, where I like you dont think they get enough games, I would like to see all the england players released for 2-3 games at the start of the season, and the last couple of games in september if they are fit.

There might also be a case for some 4 day games between the first and second test series of the summer.

Posted by Yevghenny on (July 3, 2013, 15:52 GMT)

It might give the players physical practice, but it doesn't prepare them at all for the mental challenge of top-level competition ==

Nothing will other than actually playing a test match. They still have blokes bowling at them at over 90mph in this match! So often on tour these matches end up with about 15 players playing during the game, this is the first time I've ever heard any criticism about doing it.

Posted by Optic on (July 3, 2013, 15:47 GMT)

@ScottStevo Even with KP missing cricket due to injury, I personally don't have a problem letting the likes of Bell and Bairstow get time in the middle. At the end of the day even with time away, KP has just smashed a run a ball 177 not out against the best attack in Div 1 and a quick 49 here. He looks easily the most in form England player even after a few months away, whereas Bell & Bairstow don't.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 3, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

@ScottStevo on (July 2, 2013, 17:56 GMT) I'm not sure, I think KP possibly only played one inns since his return and scored a big hundred. Maybe they feel others are still out of touch and need the practice more

@MB40 on (July 2, 2013, 16:16 GMT) What about a mixed match? One side comprising of the Eng batsmen and the fringe Eng bowlers and the other Eng bowlers and fringe batsmen. You'd then have the fringe players having a better chance to stake their claim

Posted by trav29 on (July 3, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

@yorkist in reality what difference does it make to the spectator whether it is an official first class match or not though ? I am only watching on TV but it was more meaningful watching it after rankin and topley came on rather than watch England bat away against a series of part-timers after the injuries Essex had.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 3, 2013, 14:24 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding on (July 3, 2013, 9:55 GMT) I think there has to be a balance and I personally feel Eng overdo the resting. Botham (and I'm not always in agreement with him) said about the best way of building up strength and stamina is by playing. Some at Sky argued that ITBs career was shortened due to overdoing it but we also have to bear in mind that ITB probably didn't live the life of an athlete the way modern day players do and in his time they were often playing 6 and a half days a week on top of Eng duty. These days the schedules are so much lighter anyway , even if you played all the cricket that was available Also you look at KP - how busy was he with his cricket when he last got injured? Look at Broad , has resting him so much helped him avoid injuries?

Posted by landl47 on (July 3, 2013, 14:05 GMT)

I've never liked friendlies with nothing at stake and the rules bent all the time. It might give the players physical practice, but it doesn't prepare them at all for the mental challenge of top-level competition and test cricket is at least as much about mental readiness as physical and technical skills- these guys can all play, it's who can bring it when the pressure is on.

County cricket would be better than this and might also give the guys a bit of a refresher after spending a lot of time in each other's company. Team unity is great, but even the closest families need some time apart now and then.

Posted by yorkist on (July 3, 2013, 12:43 GMT)

Essex marketed membership on the basis of this first class match and offered free admission if you booked by a certain date. England allegedly wanted a crowd. On Sunday and Monday it was the only first class cricket in the country. Never mind dropping the admission to £10, people who paid on days 1 & 2 to see first class cricket should be reimbursed. The ECB keep surveying us with questionnaires that exclude "none of the above" - this sharp practice is why people stop watching. I suspect some will have gone to Fenners to-day instead.

Posted by PACERONE on (July 3, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

The whole idea of England playing Essex was from the start a farce.How did all the previous England teams get match practice? The English players should of been playing for their respective counties all along.The ECB has gone over board with preparing England for the Ashes.

Posted by sockington on (July 3, 2013, 11:53 GMT)

what a farce - if England players want practice they play county cricket - like they used to

Posted by   on (July 3, 2013, 10:13 GMT)

To those questioning why this match had 1st Class status, maybe the fact that Essex were charging £30 per day for admission had more than a little to do with that. Today's £10 for admission for what is no more than a glorified net session is more indicative of what would have been a reasonable price if the match had not started as a 1st Class match.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 3, 2013, 9:55 GMT)

@JG2704, regarding injuries, I was listening to the Anderson interview on 5 Live a week or two a go, the bowlers like harmison felt they were more likely to get injured after a long layoff rather than after playing a number of games. Even anderson admited it took a game or two after a layoff to get back into the rythmn of bowling.

Posted by   on (July 3, 2013, 9:53 GMT)

I bet there's some clause why Sky paid for a certain number of "First Class" fixtures, and now this isn't one the ECB will be obliged to give them another. Remember the T20 games that had to be played just for Skys benefit when some were lost?

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 3, 2013, 9:53 GMT)

@zenboomerang yeah, I agree the Aussies do a good job of setting up preparation for us when we tour. Last time we got a game against WA (Beer and North both played and both featured for Australia during the Tests) and a game against an Australia A team which had three players who played during that series (Hughes, Smith and Khawaja) and another who might play during this upcoming one (Cowan).

We did give you a game against the Lions last time round (and it was a decent enough Lions side; 10 of the 11 either had represented England or went on to, five had played Tests, three had Ashes experience while the other two went on to play Ashes cricket). No idea why you haven't got a Lions game this time.

The Test grounds thing is muddier. Five of your six state sides play at the five big Test grounds. There are 18 FC Counties, 9 Test grounds, one of which isn't the property of the county who play there (Lords). But I agree we should offer you at least one warm-up at a Test ground.

Posted by Arndog on (July 3, 2013, 9:19 GMT)

I don't think the concept having a practice game is a bad idea however I think the questions need to be, 'Why was it televised'? It seems liek a waste of Sky's money to me and why was it ever dubbed as a FC game...that was just a bad call.

Posted by Cyril_Knight on (July 3, 2013, 9:09 GMT)

It needs to be said again. There should have been a round of Championship cricket scheduled for this week. The England players should have been released. They would have gained far more playing real, competitive cricket that actually means something.

The County game would have benefited too. People show up to watch quality cricketers, as shown by bigger crowds at Surrey's recent matches involving Ponting or Pietersen.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 3, 2013, 8:59 GMT)

Personally , I think England have made the best of a bad situation. No one could have foresaw the injuries to the Essex bowlers and they (for once) thought outside the bow in giving Boyd a run out. Obviously managing workloads is a contentious issue. Personally I think (by and large) we overdo the management and esp with batsmen , I feel they are more likely to be undercooked than suffer burnout. I mean if you look at KP , his injury happened after he'd played very little cricket. Also would anyone not say that if CC fixtures were scheduled between the CT and the Ashes that our players would not get at least equal competitive cricket playing for their counties? It might also help attendances for those counties.

Posted by trav29 on (July 3, 2013, 8:51 GMT)

@jackiethepen for someone who is meant to know a bit about English cricket I cant believe you asked that question about mills. he has been part of the England development programme for a couple of years now but despite having loads of potential with the pace he can get to, is still very rough around the edges and often lacks control which is why he hasn't played more games. he is definitely on the radar though and was before this game.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (July 3, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

There are two (fc) matches going on out there. One is for playing proper cricket; the other one isn't. What an embarrassing waste of time, with Sky Comms there to expose the farce in painful detail, made worse when they are kind & gentlemanly about the cockup! This is the upshot of not thinking something through. Let's hope England's thinking gets clearer than this as the summer progresses.

Posted by jackiethepen on (July 3, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

First of all Essex are mid table Div 2 team. What does it say about the fitness of their players if they are dropping like flies during a four day game? If it's bad luck then just accept it and everyone stop moaning which seems to be an epidemic. Dobell at least has tried to balance the issue. The loss of first class status is a great shame for Mills, Craddock and Bresnan, but their performances were televised and seen by England's top management. No harm done to their career chances then!! If Mahmood is a shadow of his former self what is he doing playing for Essex first XI and keeping out better bowlers? It is obvious that Mills has a real future - why hasn't this been identified by Essex? This game has done no harm at all. It could be a game changer.

Posted by siltbreeze on (July 3, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

@zenboomerang Well we've just launched the T20 competition, supposedly the marquee county tournament of the summer, so to withdraw a lot of players for an England A/B team probably wouldn't go down well. If you undermine the county structure too much it will cease to serve the purpose you mention, i.e. prepare players for international cricket.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 3, 2013, 8:11 GMT)

@jmcilhinney, see previous post, its a bit of a contrived game for the Lions, and dependant on where Northants finish in the domestic T20 competition.

In the end games are by mutual acceptance of both boards, we dont know if CA requested a lions game, or if the ECB offered one but CA (or coaching staff) declined.

Posted by ChrisKOTW on (July 3, 2013, 8:04 GMT)

I am really struggling to see why this is such an issue and why the negativity in the article is necessary. This is a warm-up game for England, not an advert for the English county game, and with three injuries to the Essex bowling attack why shouldn't England make the request to have new players brought in to give them some competition? Having to face just the third string Essex bowling attack helps nobody, including the people watching both in the ground and on Sky. As has been mentioned the goal of the ECB is the success of the national team, those arguing against what happened might want to remember that.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 3, 2013, 7:48 GMT)

@zenboomerang, I agree that Aus should have had a chance to play the Lions, and looking at the Itinery I believe they have, if Northants get to the T20 finals then the game will be switched to the Lions.

CA could have requested one of the county games be switched to include the lions as these 'warm ups' are generally arranged by bilateral agreement. It could be that neither CA or Mickey Arthur didnt request a game against the Lions.

I'm sure the England management would have jumped at the chance for the Lions to play a full Australian test side, but given recent events would aus have been prepared to play an England A-side, comprissing of the second string bolwing unit (Tremlett, Onions, Bresnan/Finn).

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (July 3, 2013, 7:48 GMT)

@Andrew Appleby - Dont be silly. Any touring side, no matter which country they are visiting should get the right to acclimatise themselves to the local conditions.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 3, 2013, 7:25 GMT)

@zenboomerang on (July 3, 2013, 6:35 GMT), while it is one of the primary purposes, I don't think that it's fair to say that the only purpose of FC cricket is to feed the Test team. If there was no Test cricket then people would still want to play FC cricket. I take your point though. The thing is, many counties are doing it tough enough already and depriving them of their best players only weakens them, thus making it harder to win games and draw crowds, therefore hurting their bottom line further. It's all very well saying that the counties should do whatever England want but if a county lose a player or two and then lose a game and that costs them a championship or means they get relegated then the impact is huge.

As for what Australia did for England, it's important to remember that every state ground in Australia is a Test ground, which is not true for all English counties. Also, I thought that the Lions were going to play Australia A, but I can't find mention of that now.

Posted by   on (July 3, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

If England should not play counties for practice is it fair to expect the Aussies to do the same ?

Posted by zenboomerang on (July 3, 2013, 6:35 GMT)

@jmcilhinney "but it means more time that those players would be absent from their counties"

So what? :)

The whole purpose of FC cricket is to get players up to Test standards - at least Oz had the decency of giving Eng a FC match against an Oz A team last series & 3 of the 4 warm up matches were on Test grounds that they would later play on.

Posted by Harlequin. on (July 3, 2013, 6:20 GMT)

I dont see what the fuss is about, England made the right call. This game was scheduled for match practice not to add a few numbers and statistics to peoples first-class career records.

I do agree with the comments that a better warm up would have been against an England A team - I would like to see more of them in the future. Or if they are concerned about the fans/entertainment - I'd like to see how someone like Glen Chapple would get on against a test quality batting line-up these days.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 3, 2013, 3:40 GMT)

It's a shame that the game degenerated the way it did but I think that they made the best of a bad situation. It's a shame for those who did well to lose FC status for those performances but I don't think that the England players at least will lose any sleep over that. Let's remember that the home team normally doesn't have any warmup games before a series and England probably wouldn't have here either if it weren't for having just played the CT with ODI and T20I games against NZ on either side of that. This was to get them back into a long-form frame of mind and I think that it will have gone some way to doing that. I don't think that intensity for an Ashes series will be a problem. For those suggest playing the Lions or MCC, that's good in theory but it means more time that those players would be absent from their counties, which is already an issue for the Lions. I feel most for Essex, having lost several players to injury for no gain.

Posted by Puffin on (July 2, 2013, 21:59 GMT)

At least Swann didn't get hit so hard he couldn't then bowl in the ashes for a while - that would made the whole affair even less palatable.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2013, 21:50 GMT)

I agree that the ECB are devaluing County Cricket by this inane fixture that has no interest to anyone. England would have better preparation playing real competitive cricket. And don't get me started on allowing Compton to play for Worcestershire.

Posted by george204 on (July 2, 2013, 20:18 GMT)

Ah, damn, I hate it when England do this! It's disrespectful to first class cricket & it doesn't do the players any favours either to get easy practice that doesn't count for anything.

Whose dumb idea was it to have a warm up match against a county anyway? If they wanted to get a decent level of practice why not revive the old test trial matches: England A v England B? A real game of cricket between players at a similar level for runs & wickets that count with test places in the balance? A match of real intensity would be far better than meaningless knocking about.

IIRC Jim Laker took a cheap 8-for in the 1956 match - look what he went on to achieve later that summer!

Posted by whatawicket on (July 2, 2013, 20:17 GMT)

the follow on if happened was never going to go down that route. what England wanted, was for them to bat a bowl twice, simple as that. Borpara was asked if they won the toss to put England in, hence the joking at the toss, why else would he say great day and pitch we will bowl. to get anything out of the game. i could not understand retired out but there you go. most seem to think England point of this game was to get as many batters and bowlers doing something that was better than nets plain and simple

Posted by   on (July 2, 2013, 20:16 GMT)

You can't account for 2 injured bowlers and it raining. What you can do is decide what's more important when these things happen. FC status or better match practice? ECB took the right choice only to be foiled by the weather. The alternative to keep FC status but have 25 overs a day from Owais Shah? Really?

As for giving the bowlers practice. Swann is injured and Broad and Anderson aren't playing. The rest is a bowl off between Finn and Bresnan - of which only one will play.

Declaring just to give 2 bowlers - of which one will be carrying the drinks - some practice seems a waste of time for the other ten players involved. ECB tried the right thing, foiled by injuries and bad weather, that's all there is to it.

As for calling it a "Farce" hardly. This is not a competitive game. Essex's take away from this is the same as England's to-wit giving England a bit of match practice.

Job done.

Posted by Munkeymomo on (July 2, 2013, 19:52 GMT)

@MB40: Unfortunately Tres hasn't been in great form this year, I think Sam Robson would be a better choice but yeah, yours is a much better idea.

It would be a great chance to play someone like Tredwell or Panesar against England too, or perhaps one on each team.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (July 2, 2013, 19:44 GMT)

I do not think the game is any worse for losing its first class status though tough on those who did well. The fact is that it is far more use to face Topley and Rankin than a non bowler. Many of the players for England have had a run out, though the playing of this game against a lowly county rather than the Champions is a bit short sighted by the fixtures dept. Essex have not made it better for the quality by not playing their best XI, thpough Craddock has had a good time and Mills has done himself no harm. Nevertheless it is the thought that counts really as they should want us to be at our best.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 2, 2013, 19:03 GMT)

@ScottStevo probably because didn't play in the Champions Trophy and so should already be in "Test mode". His last innings for England was the 2nd Test in Napier. And he's had a decent knock (177 off 188 balls) for Surrey since coming back, in a proper First Class match against three former England bowlers.

Bell's out of form and I wonder if they want to make sure they look at Bairstow and Compton (in the Worcs game against Australia) to decide who plays the first Test.

Posted by ScottStevo on (July 2, 2013, 17:56 GMT)

Why didn't KP bat at 4? Did I miss something? Surely he needs more time in the middle than anyone else. Not sure why anybody is under the impression that these warm up games are anything more than a glorified net session. That's exactly what these games are meant to be.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

That's a bit hard on Tim Bresnan. After he worked hard to score a first class century he then gets told the next day that it's been taken away from him because the match is no longer first class!!!!!!!

Posted by Lord_Flashheart on (July 2, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

Andrew Strauss: "whatever intensity there had been in this game has been lost."

I think that any intensity the game had was lost when Bopara (having won the toss) said "It looks like a great day to make some runs, so we'll bowl."

For the game to be competitive, Essex should have been given the opportunity to try and win it.

Posted by MB40 on (July 2, 2013, 16:16 GMT)

Instead of playing a meaningless game against a fairly mediocre side, England could have had a real warmup by playing an MCC side consisting of some top county and other players. Something like Trescothick, Carberry, Ponting, Dravid*, James Taylor, James Vince, James Foster†, James Harris, Keith Barker, Chris Wright, Scott Borthwick. That would surely be a better warmup than any one county could provide?

Posted by andybu on (July 2, 2013, 16:01 GMT)

What sort of preparation is this for the Ashes? Seems like the game has disintegrated into little more than an extended net .... The thinking is sound (ie, ensure the likely squad has the mind set to play 5 day test cricket rather than the limited over variety) but the execution is pathetic

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (July 2, 2013, 15:49 GMT)

A comfortable warm up all round for the England batsmen and bowlers, a perfect start for the Ashes.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 2, 2013, 14:09 GMT)

Sighhhh!!! I predicted this morning that today would end in farce. This was precisely the reason why you hoped that the follow-on would be enforced so that at least the bowlers got some serious practice.

Mind you, Reece Topley could command fees of millions in some parts of the world if his mere presence sparks rain.

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