The Ashes 2013-14

England secure stiffer preparation

Daniel Brettig

October 31, 2013

Comments: 45 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Pietersen does some stretching ahead of a nets session, Perth, October 29, 2013
Kevin Pietersen will return to face stronger opposition in England's second and third warm-up fixtures © AFP

Australia will expect the reciprocal fielding of strong opposing teams when they tour England in 2015 after the ECB secured a dramatic Cricket Australia backflip over the composition of the XI to face Alastair Cook's tourists in their final fixture before the first Test in Brisbane.

Pressure imposed by the ECB about the strength of the New South Wales team to appear at the SCG from November 13, during a concurrent round of Sheffield Shield matches, has led to CA selecting another near Australia A team for the match, in addition to the four-day game in Hobart that precedes it.

Each state will be affected, as Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch and Adam Voges are among those set to appear, in addition to a selection of NSW players. By being named to face the Englishmen a week before the Test rather than playing Shield cricket, it also appears likely that none of the aforementioned batsmen will be part of the Gabba Test squad to be named on November 12.

CA's decision has raised plenty of eyebrows around the states, who are unhappy to be losing first-choice players at such short notice from the Shield. Questions have also been raised privately about why CA was not quite so insistent when their own Ashes tourists faced a weakened Somerset and Worcestershire in Ashes warm-up matches earlier this year.

Pat Howard, the team performance manager, has claimed that the change is the result of CA's desire to give players of interest an additional sight of international opposition, as much as any pressure from the ECB. Neither the Australia A team for Hobart nor the Invitational XI for Sydney will feature too many fast bowlers, as the selectors prefer to keep their powder dry for the Tests themselves.

"We feel this match presents a good opportunity to give a core group of talented batsmen from a number of states, further experience against a strong international line-up," Howard said.

"We continue to look for opportunities to develop our batsmen and taking part in matches like this only helps in that area. The ECB is supportive of this plan. It wanted us to field a strong line-up, so we will use the opportunity to promote key players in the Australian system. In return, we look forward to the ECB fielding powerful teams for the touring Australian side in 2015.

"We appreciate the cooperation of all the state associations in supporting this plan, particularly as it coincides with the third round of Shield matches."

With a full Sheffield Shield programme every week in the run up to the first Test, England were concerned about facing understrength opposition. According to reports, a complaint was made to CA executive management. A key feature of England's success on the previous Ashes tour was their vigorous warm-up schedule, with three first-class matches.

On their last tour of India, England were denied the opportunity to face any specialist spin bowling in their warm-up fixtures but won the subsequent Test series 2-1.

England's first warm-up fixture is a three-day match against Western Australia Chairman's XI captained by Michael Beer and including the Queensland batsman Chris Lynn, for which England rested Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad while Cook was ruled out with a back injury.

Their preparations for the first Test will then escalate with a four-day match in Hobart against Australia A before what will now be a demanding fixture in Sydney.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (November 1, 2013, 9:11 GMT)

@Lmaotsetung, Australia is towards southeast of India. Get your geography right.

Posted by Dashgar on (November 1, 2013, 3:17 GMT)

WA 2nd XI are beating England at the moment. This is good by Australia to keep the momentum up. In the 90s we always put strong teams against the tourists and they usually beat them leading to the Australian team beating them even worse. Last thing we want to do is give the English bowlers a heap of wickets and their batsmen a heap of time in the middle. I want to see Finn, Tremlett and Anderson looking exhausted before the ashes even starts. Chris Lynn has struck the first blow.

Posted by JG2704 on (October 31, 2013, 19:51 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx on (October 31, 2013, 10:04 GMT) Not sure if you are trying to be argumentative or misunderstood what I said. The Aus 11 was a way of describing the side rather than typing out the full title. I think the players are Australian , but for clarity sake I'll say WACs instead in future comms on this game

Posted by simon_w on (October 31, 2013, 17:11 GMT)

in seriousness, though, this just strikes me as a good move for all concerned. England will get better preparation for the Test series (and in return Australia will get the same in 2015), and a group of fringe Aussie batsmen will get some more experience on a slightly bigger stage than they would otherwise have, which has to be good for Australia. It's not really going to make any difference to the result of the Ashes (India's refusal to field a single specialist spin-bowler in the warm-up games for England's last tough have have earned them the first Test, but England still took the series), so it's not like Australia are really giving up any advantage in that respect. Seems like a win/win to me, to be honest.

Posted by simon_w on (October 31, 2013, 17:05 GMT)

wow, there's a lot of Aussie bravado on here... makes you look nervous...

Posted by popcorn on (October 31, 2013, 15:26 GMT)

What stiffer opposition are the Poms crying about? In fact, the Western Australian Chairman's XI should be complaining that they need stiffer opposition! The WA Chairman's XI have hammered the daylights out of the "famed" bowling attack of the Englismen consisting of James Anderson, Tremlett, Finn, Rankin, Root and Stokes,scoring freely,amassing a huge 4 / 369 in 90 overs! Sic.

Posted by wanatawu on (October 31, 2013, 14:39 GMT)

Tell my what is England fascination with long tall bowlers, some variation? I think you will miss Graham Onions.

Posted by jonesy2 on (October 31, 2013, 11:05 GMT)

a high school team would be too stiffer opposition for England. the second XI teams contain many players who are a class above most of the England players particularly the bowlers anyway. more utter riduculousness from CA. if England win one test match this summer that will be a failure from Australia's point of view. should be 4 or 5 to nill to the hosts

Posted by Mitty2 on (October 31, 2013, 10:45 GMT)

As usual, have to correct myself, meant to be: 'was to make/schedule the Ryobi Cup like a World Cup'

Posted by Beertjie on (October 31, 2013, 10:35 GMT)

Keeping their powder dry for the Tests would have been more effective if Pattinson, Starc and Cummins were available. Hope they'll all be fit (if selected) in two years. Anyway, if England don't reciprocate in July 2015 they'll only have themselves to blame later when they tour once more. Then they should truly face a grade team as suggested by @on (October 31, 2013, 2:14 GMT)!

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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