Australia A v England XI, Hobart, 1st day November 17, 2010

Smith fights but England on top


England XI 1 for 22 trail Australia A 230 (O'Keefe 66, Smith 59, Tremlett 4-54, Shahzad 3-57) by 208 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia's plans for the first Ashes Test are in a mess after a woeful day on which eight specialist batsmen in their Test squad failed in three matches around the country. Steven Smith was one of only two men in the 17-man group for the Gabba who shone with the bat, making 59 against England's second-string attack in Hobart, but he is unlikely to make the starting line-up next Thursday.

Smith and his fellow spin-bowling allrounder Steve O'Keefe rebuilt Australia A's innings at Bellerive Oval, where they pushed the total to 230 with some lower-order fighting. England lost Andrew Strauss early in the reply for 10, caught by O'Keefe at gully off Mark Cameron, and at stumps they were 1 for 22 with Alastair Cook on 10 and the nightwatchman Monty Panesar on 2.

Most significant was the failure of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, who were named in the squad for the Gabba Test but struggled on a green-top under cloudy skies. They were not alone. At the MCG, Michael Hussey was caught at slip by his brother David for an 18-ball duck, and his Western Australia team-mate Marcus North also departed cheaply for 17, but Mitchell Johnson finished unbeaten on 82.

Further north in Sydney, Simon Katich, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin all failed to get past 10, as New South Wales were demolished by Tasmania in their first innings for 97 on a horribly difficult SCG surface. When Tasmania replied, Ricky Ponting came in for the third ball of the innings and managed only 7. Michael Clarke must be thankful that his sore back ruled him out of that match.

It was the worst possible warm-up for Australia's batsmen eight days out from the first Test, especially as the selectors wanted to use these games to settle on a starting line-up. Hussey is the most vulnerable, but neither Khawaja nor Ferguson grasped their opportunities at Bellerive Oval, where it took Smith and O'Keefe to rebuild with half-centuries.

England sent their frontline bowlers to Brisbane early to prepare for the Test, but the weakened attack had no trouble causing problems for the top order in helpful conditions. Chris Tremlett finished with 4 for 54 and Ajmal Shahzad, who was flown in from the performance squad to bolster the group, bowled very well for his 3 for 57.

Khawaja was caught behind for 13 off a thin edge when Shahzad's persistent fullish length and angle finally paid off, and Ferguson followed soon afterwards for 7. He was caught behind off Tim Bresnan (2 for 65), and soon the home team was struggling at 5 for 66. Smith and Tim Paine (27) began the rebuilding process until Paine edged behind while trying to hook Tremlett down leg side.

But Smith, renowned as a dasher, continued to play sensibly with just the occasional moment of aggression thrown in to satisfy his urges. A hook for six off Bresnan looked more like a forehand smash, and he also pulled confidently in front of square. Smith eventually played on to Shahzad, but O'Keefe pushed on to get the total past 200.

O'Keefe was the last man out, caught by Matt Prior when he skied a swipe against Tremlett, and it was a decent recovery given Australia A's early wobbles. Tremlett backed Andrew Strauss's decision to send the hosts in by having Phillip Hughes caught behind for 2 in the third over. Tremlett also accounted for Cameron White, who was bowled for 5 attempting an aggressive drive.

The only man who looked comfortable early in the challenging conditions was the local opener Ed Cowan, who worked hard for 31, only to see the improbable sight of Monty Panesar hurling himself in the air to take a stunning one-handed catch at midwicket. When Panesar pulls that off, you know it's not your day. And nor was it Australia's day anywhere around the nation.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on November 18, 2010, 6:51 GMT

    @Hanes Bezoidthrusta - LOL re: Pak misery. Stumps Day 4 you would have to of been confident - with Pakis recent history of no fight. What I can't figure out is why the Pakis didn't have a crack @ winning with 7 wickets spare 110 runs to win off 16 overs! Maybe the money always was on the draw!!!!! @Davo47 - gee Strauss would be a brave man - given Hussains effort 8 years ago! You're possibly right though! @Chapelau - I don't think many bloggers have been that cocky, not like our glorious captain! If Katich is out injured, we could move Mitch J to open as he & Pup are the only 2 frontline players with any batting form. This would mean that any wickets MJ gets would be a bonus - LOL!!

  • Marcio on November 18, 2010, 1:08 GMT

    All this doom and gloom from Aussies - or gloating from the Poms - before a ball has been bowled in the series is way too premature. Despite the awful preparation, and everything going against Australia and everything imaginable going England's way thus far (e.g. English style green tops being generously provided for the Poms in warm up games, and apparently for the Gabba too), that will mean nothing when the players get to the Gabba. Much will depend on the toss. Botham's boast that England are unbeatable is just dumb. Oz have some v. good players, despite the bashings.

  • Andrew on November 18, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    @ CricketingStargazer - I hope it is not over in 2 days - I have free tickets for a corporate box for the 3rd day! Anyways I love the banter, funny how the Pommie fans have suddenly discovered internet blogs! I still believe that Oz will lift for the Ashes, but I don't like the preparation!!!!!

  • Peter on November 17, 2010, 22:31 GMT

    Not sure on the other 2 grounds, but the Hobart & Sydney pitches were extremely bowler friendly. I've never seen such a juicy pitch at Bellerive before, and no wonder Strauss couldn't wait to send in the Aussie A team after winning the toss. The conditions lived up to the predictions with the ball, darting, jumping and seaming all over the place. It was actually good to see a contest favouring the bowlers for a change and this challenged the batsmen to change their method. Smith's efforts were noteworthy, mostly for the fact that he curbed his natural aggressive manner and actually put his head down to ground out some runs resembling some of the days of years long past before the advent of T20 et al. He did club some big shots when offered, but overall, a performance beyond his years. The Sydney pitch was far too much with the bowlers, with both sides getting exaggerated movement and variable bounce. @biggus, I have been to the last 10 gabba tests ( and will go next week) & agree 100%.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2010, 22:06 GMT

    This is hilarious. "England will retain the Ashes"? What a joke!

    Both these sides are middling to good. The only proven track record England has in Australia is one of failure and abject humiliation. They'll do well to run this series close no matter how fragile the Aus line-up looks right now.

    Please, people, perspective. England are not that good. Australia are not that bad. There isn't a lot to distinguish between them, so, as one would've done in 2009, one must give the benefit of the doubt to the home side. Australia to win, probably 2-1.

    And I, as a South African, will look on and laugh at all equally. (And try to forget my own Pakistan-induced misery in the process.)

  • David on November 17, 2010, 20:51 GMT

    @Btba - toss in Brisbane won't matter mate. If Ponting wins he'll bat (always does); if Strauss wins he'll bowl (based on the Tassie game and how our alleged "top flight" batsmen have gone in the Shield games).

  • Michael on November 17, 2010, 19:32 GMT

    England really failed to do what they fail to do so often-FINISH the job they started so well. Though conditions eased the bowlers should have nailed the tail and been batting soon after tea. Maybe they were a bit jaded after 2 months off and lacking fitness for the kill. Otherwise Shazzad really impressed with some really dangerous bowling and looked the pick of the attack. Tremlett if 100% fit could be a handfull. I wonder if the groundsmen are deadening the wickets for their side given the height of our bowlers. I wish Perth was still like it was.

  • Chris on November 17, 2010, 18:44 GMT

    @IPLis dull - not sure what u have been listening to, but there have been loads of "cocky" comments from Aus ... must confess to missing our mate Glenny's comments ... "5-0 whitewash to Aus", then after the first test it will be, "aw well, that was lucky it will be 4-1 to Aus... guess he will shut up after the third test !

  • thomas on November 17, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    Well, well. Let's not forget that on the eve of the 86/87 series it was said that the only problem with the English side was that it couldn't bat, bowl or field. And look how that series went. Perhaps Australia can take some heart from that.

    That said, I still think England will retain the Ashes.

  • Dean on November 17, 2010, 17:26 GMT

    @Simon Jessup. I find it prudent to actually watch cricket before making comments. Eng bowled in the right areas yesterday exploiting very favourable bowling conditions that even some of the best batsmen going around would have found difficult. I can assure you the Aus A bowlers would of had similar success if they had bowled first...

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