WA Chairman's XI v England XI, Tour match, Perth October 30, 2013

England's tall quicks go head-to-head

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England have set up a potential fast-bowling shootout in their opening tour match against a Western Australia Chairman's XI with Boyd Rankin, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett all vying for what is likely to be the final bowling slot in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane.

Matt Prior will lead England in the absence of Alastair Cook, who misses the match because of a back complaint exacerbated by the long-haul flight from London last week.

There is also a contest for places in the batting line-up. Michael Carberry, England's shadow opener, will step in for Cook, and there is also competition for places down the order for the No. 6 place at the Gabba with Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes being given the first opportunity ahead of Jonny Bairstow.

Bairstow may have regarded himself as the man in possession, even though he missed the final Test against Australia at the Oval, but his Yorkshire team-mate, Ballance, is not short of supporters. The techniques of both players against quick bowling have at times been questioned, which makes their selection at the WACA, the paciest and bounciest of Australia's Test pitches particularly intriguing.

Cook will be frustrated to miss out on the opening match, recognising that England need to set the tone with the bat as quickly as possible. They are anxious to remedy a disappointing batting return in the home Ashes series. Although they took the series 3-0, they failed to reach 400 in any of the five Tests.

"Last time we saw that big runs make a massive difference and set the game up," Cook said before he left London. "Sometimes in England, 240-250 can be a good score with the overhead conditions, but the majority of the time in Australia 400 is the bare minimum."

Prior, the first wicketkeeper to lead England since Alec Stewart in 2001, must also contend with a suggestion from Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, that England are past their best.

Ponting couched it in polite terms as he stopped off in Perth on a promotional tour for his autobiography. "I think the England team might be slightly past their absolute peak," he said "I just think they're getting to that stage where a lot of their guys have been around a long time and they've been at the top, or near the top, for a while.

"Some of their players would say the same, that they're probably just tapering off a fraction and our boys are on the way up. That's what I'm excited about with this contest.

"I think the Australian team's only going to improve, and sometimes when you have that sort of contest some funny things can happen. I'm not being unrealistic, I know this group of players are going to have to play at their absolute peak to win the Ashes. But I think they can. We've got a great record at the Gabba. If we happen to win that first Test, I believe that's possible."

Prior, one of nine thirtysomethings in England's squad, suddenly felt much older - and he had not even taken the field as England skipper. "It's his opinion, which is great - he's obviously a great ex-player," he said. "It's up to us older players to show that we're not that old just yet and hopefully got a few more years to go. Ultimately it comes down not to talking but performing."

Cook has to be careful to manage a long-standing, if minor, back ailment, but he has yet to miss a match with it and it cannot be compared with the debilitating condition which has plagued Michael Clarke, his rival Ashes captain. Prior called his absence "purely precautionary."

England's other omissions include Monty Panesar, who has had a stomach bug, and Kevin Pietersen, who joined the tour late after being allowed compassionate leave because of the death of a close friend in South Africa.

England XI Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Matt Prior (wk/capt), James Anderson, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlett

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • njr1330 on October 31, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    'Tapering off a fraction' is hardly a disaster, one would think!

  • Wayne_Larkins_Barnet on October 31, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    You guys are missing the point, forget about age for goodness sake. Form is what Ponting is on about and I think there's an underlying note about motivation for England.

  • BettingWages on October 31, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Despite the ability of the bowlers on show in this match... can it be said that England's current attack is better than previous Ashes winning line-ups? Not so sure about that...

  • Mitty2 on October 31, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    Oh and on the game, all the tall players have been very average against very average batsmen statistically (Harris average 28; the other opener averages 20). All look to be lacking in pace (particularly Tremlett - looks really innocuous) and are too expensive, but above all, the lack of variety in the attack will be a huge worry for Eng. Finn's expensive as usual - bowling all over the place and Rankin doesn't know what to do, bowling at over 7 runs an over.

    England hypocritically wanted stiffer competition... I have no idea what they are complaining about!

  • robotcro on October 30, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    Ponting reckons the English side are passed their best? Unlike Ryan Harris (34), Brad Haddin (36) and Chris Rogers (36) I suppose. And talking of Dad's Army, no, they certainly don't like it up 'em captain.

  • dummy4fb on October 30, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    Only a South African, Zimbabwean and Irish fella in the England XI!

  • landl47 on October 30, 2013, 22:10 GMT

    Yeah, right, Ricky, Australia are on the way up and England are on the way down. So if the Australian side is Rogers, Warner, Watson, Clarke, Smith, Bailey, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Harris, Lyon and the England side is Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Broad, Swann, Finn, Anderson, Australia would be the younger side, right?

    Oops, no. Australia is older and by a fair margin. Ricky's mathematics is as poor as his record as an Ashes captain.

  • Mitty2 on October 30, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    @cubitt, the only current young english player to perform with the bat on a test level is joe root... Bairstow, Morgan, Taylor, Bopara and the revolving door of the number six position shows that none of these English youngsters have been up to scratch... Yet. It's slightly better with Australia however, with Wade, despite his confidence with the gloves, having scored two test centuries, warner 3 and smith now proving himself for Australia. Struggling to see any superiority...

    And with none of your mentioned players having succeeded at test level barring root, no assertion can be clearly stated that you "have greater depth". Burns, silk maddinson, patterson, lynn and even cooper have all had promising FC starts on sometimes ridiculously green pitches against talented seamers... Oh and woakes and stokes? Dont make me laugh. Faulkner, let alone Cutting have got them covered by a large margin.

  • hhillbumper on October 30, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    you do have to think that a short skiddy bowler would have made the attack a bit different. A skidder in the mold of Simon Jones would complement the height and pace. It will be interesting to see how the big lads go.Finn should get a go and maybe England hould stop fiddling with his run up and action.It set Jimmy back because of the remedial work.

  • 2.14istherunrate on October 30, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    Who does Ponting mean when he says England may be past their best? KP? Swann? Anderson? All 3 over the hill players will be accompanied by their zimmerframes and carers en route to the wicket or when coming in to bowl? And all the while spring chickens such as Rogers, Harris, Bailey?, and the ever flexi-backed Clarke will be gavorting around like teenagers...Forget it, Rickie. Wishful thinking I believe. I suppose Xavier Doherty is now a better bowler than Monty. These are indeed desperate times for Australia in the war of words!

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