Essex v England, LV= Challenge Match, Chelmsford, 3rd day July 2, 2013

Ashes warm-up loses first-class status


England's Ashes warm-up game at Chelmsford has lost its first-class status after two new bowlers were drafted into the Essex side. With the Essex attack weakened through injury, England's batsmen were progressing with facile ease when it was decided that more benefit would be gained from the match if the Essex side was supplemented with higher-quality bowlers.

While unfortunate for those players who had achieved personal milestones in this match - the achievements of Tom Craddock, Tim Bresnan and Joe Root, for example, will not count towards their records - there was some merit in this decision.

The entire purpose of this match had been for England to benefit from competitive cricket ahead of the Ashes. With Essex's opening bowlers - David Masters and Tymal Mills - both ruled out of the rest of the game through injury, the nature of this contest bore no comparison to the rigours of an Ashes series.

The issue came to a head when Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were confronted with part-time spinners Tom Westley and Owais Shah. The England management, frustrated at the lack of intensity in the game, requested that Reece Topley, the tall left-arm Essex fast bowler they had asked to be included in the Essex team from the start, and Boyd Rankin, the fast bowler who made his England debut in the T20 series against New Zealand last week, come into the side.

As a result, Mills and Masters were replaced by Topley and Rankin and, in accordance with the Laws, the game has lost its first-class status. Essex, in their desire to assist England, were happy to acquiesce to the request. By then Westley had also been forced off the field with a dislocated finger, sustained while fielding in the gully and attempting to field a stroke from Trott, and Essex had three young substitute fielders on the pitch.

Underlining the sense that the game had descended into farce, one of them, Aaron Beard, was only 15 years old. The situation took another turn for the worse three balls after the substitutions had been made, when the players were forced off by a delay for rain.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Geoffrey on July 4, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    It seems strange to me how a player who is withdrawn from a game injured then bats in the second innings in a game that is now of no consequence as its status has been removed,it also seems strange how the English authorities can get Compton to play for Worcestershire in a first class game of some standard against the Australians yet they cannot organize a team of some standard to play against England,perhaps they wanted a game they could win and not embarrass themselves in which is fine, but don't destroy the ethics of cricket,did you refund peoples money when the match lost its status I would doubt it very much,why not pick a competitive side to play against England,why not have an Invitation XI,the same thing happens in every country in tour matches these days and it is a disgrace.destroy the history and memories of cricket yet keep records for a 20 over a side match,these matches were originally a way to get in form and to blood newcomers into F/C cricket.

  • Brian on July 3, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    @Carol Trew: Can't help thinking that few paying spectators would have turned up on Sunday expecting to see a really competitive match. These fixtures have "practice" written all over them, which is one argument for not having them in the first place. Rather than "warming down" for test cricket by playing against his own county, Cook should be warming up for it by playing for his own county in a competitive context: i.e., the county championship

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    I am still at a loss to understand why so few people have commented on the fact that a lot of people paid a lot of money for what turns out to be a long net practice. There are obviously more people on this site who are only interested in the test team and not a county side or spectators. This has been a giant rip off. The match should have been abandoned when the two outside bowlers joined in and a new 1 innings match started keeping the first match as first class. Unless this is done I for one will not go to any match not part of a competition including benefit matches, university matches or tourist matches. I don't think I will be alone.

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    I think the decision stinks. It was designated first class match then changed half-way through. What about poor Craddock? Quiz question - who took 5 wickets in a first class match, but they are not in his statistics. And Bresnan - he got a century against genuine first-class bowlers who were really trying. One minute Essex bowlers (Mills) were accused of trying too hard, the next minute Essex were told that they were inadequate for practice. Of course, the injuries were unfortunate, but we still had a match. England could have pressed on, trying to change gear, then bowl Essex out. Shah is no joke as a bowler - he has taken 7 ODI wickets for England - and they seemed to have trouble with Craddock. Westley is trying to convince people that he can be a regular bowler. As soon as you take first-class status away from a match, THEN it becomes a farce. People do not try in the same way.

  • Justin on July 3, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    @Thomas Alexis-Webb - 11 vs 11 - It works.

  • H on July 2, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    @Thomas Alexis-Webb problem is "genuine" injury is hard to prove. If a player has a history of a bad back or sore knee, it can flare up any time and there's no way to know if it's "genuine" or not. Limited tactical substitutions in that scenario is likely to fail because teams will exaggerate injuries to get more.

    If you're going to go down that road, a better solution might be to allow unlimited substitutions during a four or five day match, for injury or tactical reasons, but the player who's been substituted cannot return to the match later.

  • Jeff on July 2, 2013, 16:54 GMT

    We have to remember cricket is the only major team sport in the entire world that does not allow full substitutes. And, with games lasting up to 5 days, it is the longest.

  • ian on July 2, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    It would have been better to have had a match in which all participants had a genuine' England' stake in the contest (yes, I'm repeating myself). The team England could have been playing could for e.g. have selected from the following: Carberry, Chopra, Gale, Ali, James Taylor, Bopara, Ballance, Buttler, S Davies, Stokes, Jordan, Rashid, Tredwell, Tremlett, Rankin & Briggs. An XI from this group would have pushed England mighty hard. Call them what you like. Lions, England A, Possibles. As it is (match devalued) we have got no more than a net in the middle! Of v limited value indeed. Still, when mistakes are made, they can be put right next time. And before anyone says Flt20, let's remember that county ranks are currently swollen by the imports. I'm quite sure that counties would enjoy the kudos of having players selected for a representative side, besides the players themselves being acknowledged that they are likely reserves. That's the prime reason for the county system, isn't it?

  • dave on July 2, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    How many spectators would have gone to this match knowing it was not 1st class? How many people would have paid more than a fiver to watch a beer match? This is a case of the club/and or the authorities not giving a flying fig for the fans. There would be a riot if spurs had beaten arsenal in a premier league match and they announced at halftime it was only a kickabout after all!!!! THEY MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH THIS!

  • Matthew 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?

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