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November 28, 2013
England Performance Programme 376 for 9 dec. and 156 for 5 (Foakes 52*) lead Queensland Second XI 156 (Burns 97*, Bresnan 4-31, Mills 3-17) by 376 runs
Report : Bresnan makes half-century on return
Players/Officials: Tim Bresnan
Series/Tournaments: England Performance Programme tour of Australia
Tim Bresnan could not be making better use of his first competitive outing since breaking down with a stress fracture to proclaim that he has no wish to sit out the entire Ashes series.
Nobody really expects Bresnan to be a serious contender for a place in the second Ashes Test, but with every day that passes, he is at least making them revisit the assumption.
He will join the Test squad following this England Performance Programme fixture, where Bresnan followed up a half-century (57 from 62 balls) on the opening day with 4 for 31 in 10 overs on the second day against a Queensland 2nd XI. There are a few England players who would have given a lot for such figures with bat or ball at the Gabba, where they suffered a drubbing against Australia in the first Test.
But England rarely shift from their preconceived plans and it is highly doubtful that they have ever contemplated playing Bresnan in Adelaide. On the roads around Australia, one often sees signs asking tired drivers undergoing long journeys: "Do you have a Plan B?" England's tendency will be only to consider Plan B when the wheels are falling off and smoke is pouring out of the engine.
It is difficult to gauge the worth of Bresnan's display against a Queensland 2nd XI - "solid" was one word routinely bandied around by Australian observers who felt he was still some way down on pace - and England's team director, Andy Flower, and coach David Saker are both in Alice Springs. He struck in the first over, having Dom Michael caught behind, and two other wickets came in the close-catching cordon.
Joe Burns, the one Queensland player of note in the side, also escaped Bresnan's clutches, falling just short of an unbeaten hundred as his side were dismissed for 156 at Allan Border Field. EPP squad then reached the close on 156 for 5 to secure a lead of 376 with a day remaining.
"He looked pretty good,'' Burns told Brisbane's Courier Mail. "He was swinging it a bit and bowling within himself a little bit but you could see he still had that effort ball. It certainly felt as if he was still building but he was not too far away."
It was another satisfying day for the Performance squad. They declared on their overnight 376 for 9, content that arguably the two most highly-regarded batsmen in the squad, Middlesex's Sam Robson, who retired on 102 and Moeen Ali of Worcestershire, who made 83, had made a favourable impression.
Bresnan had not played a competitive match since he broke down in the fourth Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street in August. His inclusion in Adelaide looks improbable, especially as the first drop-in Test pitch at the now multi-purpose stadium could well be a stamina-testing experience for both bowling attacks.
But his 24 wickets in five Ashes Tests mean that Australia hold him in high regard, none more so than the coach Darren Lehmann, who played alongside the younger Bresnan at Yorkshire. His hopes will be growing that he can make a contribution later in the series, certainly in Melbourne over Christmas, where he bowled the defining spell three years ago during the Test in which England retained the Ashes.
He has rarely attracted the plaudits during his 21-Test career, but after England's heavy defeat at the Gabba, his batting average of 30 and bowling average of 32 are looking more than ever the sort of dependable all-round figures England could do with.
Another all-round option that is a genuine possibility for the second Test is Ben Stokes. He made his international debut in the one-day series against Australia in England and will look to stake his claim for a Test debut in the No. 6 slot during England's two-day match in Alice Springs, alongside batsmen Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance.
"Everyone is going to go out there and make sure they put their hand up and prove a point that they want to be out here and be in that second Test match," Stokes said. "There's probably three guys who've got the chance to try and get into that number six. Whether it's me or not, Gary or Jonny, but we've got this next two days to go out there and really try to get in there."
England are yet to name their final XI for the Alice Springs tour match but are expected to rest Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and James Anderson as they try to gather the evidence they need about how best to rebalance their side now that Jonathan Trott has returned home with a stress-related illness and they have gone 1-0 down in the series.
*November 28, 12.45 GMT: This article was updated to reflect the England team for Alice Springs
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