Smith keen to build on batting
On a day when most of Australia's Test batsmen failed around the country, Steven Smith's 59 was a rare highlight. The first Ashes Test at the Gabba is eight days away but Smith does not expect his performance, which came in difficult seaming conditions against a quality England attack, to propel him into the top six.
"The selectors have a fair indication of what they're going to go with in Brisbane," Smith said, on a day when Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Simon Katich all made low scores. "Some people fail on wickets if they're green around the country. I guess you can't really take too much out of what's going to happen this week."
Even so, Smith's innings will impress the selectors, as it began watchfully after England reduced Australia A to 5 for 66, and became gradually more attacking as Smith became used to the conditions. But there remains doubt over what role Smith is best suited to at the Test level; he played as the main spinner against Pakistan this year when Nathan Hauritz was injured, but is also an impressive striker of the ball.
"Down the track I'd definitely like to be a middle-order batsman," he said. "I work just as hard on my batting as I do on my bowling. Down the track I would like to be a genuine allrounder; whether the selectors see it that way at the moment or not, I'm not sure."
Smith was helped by England's short-pitched attack, which suited his swatting style of pulls and hooks. Steve O'Keefe also handled the bowling well in making 66, but the rest of the batsmen struggled.
England's bowlers, led by Chris Tremlett with 4 for 54, mixed controlled aggression with good, fuller balls that facilitated swing and seam. It's a plan that the Test team should expect from James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, who are already in Brisbane adjusting to the conditions.
"When you come out to Australia and you play on these wickets, you hope that your attributes will play a part," Tremlett said. "At 6 feet 8 myself and the other guys are pretty tall as well, definitely that is the plan, to intimidate guys and get in their faces a little bit.
"Everyone put their hand up. Everyone got a couple of wickets, apart from Monty. But even though he didn't get a wicket, he put the pressure on and bowled really well. I think as a group, it was a very good bowling performance."
It was Tremlett's first match for England in two years, and although he began nervously with a wayward first over, he quickly found his radar and picked up the first wicket in his next over. He said there had been a major change in the squad's attitude since he last played, which could augur well as they aimed to retain the Ashes.
"I haven't been involved for a couple of years, and I have come in and noticed a difference in confidence within the side," Tremlett said. "I guess that comes from winning a lot of series and a lot of games back to back. Hopefully we'll take that on to Brisbane and go from there."
Tremlett also insisted he had not given up on hopes that he might be part of the team for the first Test at Brisbane. "It is maybe not set in stone, the first-Test squad. All you can do is when you get your opportunity, try your hardest - and you never know; you might have put your name in the hat. Getting some wickets builds your confidence - and if my opportunity does come along, my confidence will be high."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo