England warm up with Warwickshire for Ashes
Preparation is the key to England's Ashes campaign, according to chairman of selectors Geoff Miller. The ECB has announced its fixtures list for the 2009 season and, with the Ashes understandably taking the top billing, a three-day warm-up match has been slotted in between an England XI and Warwickshire immediately before the first Test against Australia in Cardiff.
"We put a relevance on everything we can arrange to our advantage, and the best possible preparation is a very big part of that," Miller said. "Pete [Peter Moores, the England coach] and Kevin [Pietersen] are very hot on the best preparation. It is down to how we think we can be sure we do it as well as possible."
The warm-up match at Edgbaston represents vital first-class match practice for England, many of whose players will have spent much of the preceding five weeks playing Twenty20 cricket - either for their county's Twenty20 campaign or in the World Twenty20 which England are hosting. Moores could have opted to send the players back to the provinces - a decision which would have favoured the counties - but instead has decided to keep the team in one place.
"There are County Championship games," Miller acknowledged. "Pete makes that decision, and we felt that having everyone together - playing with one another and being with one another - would make it easier to control the preparation and create the right atmosphere in the squad.
"There is a big difference between Twenty20 and five-day cricket - and, of course, we want to be sure everyone is ready to do his best."
While England will take on Warwickshire, there will be an even greater contest close to Edgbaston: the England Lions against Australia at New Road, a match that Miller said broadens the selection pool.
"The Lions are very much part of our playing strength in depth," he said. "It is not just a Test unit. Whoever is picked against Australia [for the Lions at Worcester] will know they are very much part of it.
"Of course they could get in [the squad for the first Test in Cardiff]. You never know what might happen - and form, at that time of year specifically, is going to be very relevant."