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

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