Australia A v England XI, Tour match, Hobart

Rain plays havoc with England plans

Daniel Brettig in Hobart

November 8, 2013

Comments: 33 | Text size: A | A
England starved of action

Where cool temperatures and overcast skies were a major contributor to England's Ashes victory in Australia four summers ago, a similar belt of weather through Hobart is now playing havoc with the meticulous planning of Alastair Cook's men. Two consecutive days of showers have confined the Englishmen to the Bellerive Oval dressing rooms, while the lack of indoor nets due to a redevelopment at the ground has cruelled the players' chances of even cursory preparation.

Graham Gooch, the England batting coach, has taken non-playing members of the squad to the TCA Ground elsewhere in Hobart for use of indoor facilities, but the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad are yet to spend any time in the middle with only five allotted playing days left for the tourists before the first Test begins in Brisbane on November 21. In 2010-11 the rain and cloud helped England's seam bowlers to excel in a cool summer, but this time many of the same players have been left cursing the skies over Tasmania while confined to gym work.

"You want to get the cobwebs out of the guys who've not played, get some time in the middle, the bowlers want to iron out any little flaws in their run-ups and get their rhythm," Gooch said. "Cricket is a game of rhythm whether you bat or bowl and certainly if you're sitting in the dressing room you get that sort of malaise of just sitting around.

"I've been to the indoor nets with a few players yesterday and today and no doubt we'll be back there tomorrow if the rain stays around. It's okay there for the non-playing guys but the players had to wait to see if the rain subsided and we could get out there. You make the best of it but it's not ideal. Your enthusiasm goes a little bit, so they do need to be out there because time is short now, five playing days before the first Test left and that's minimal, isn't it?"

England's planning is enormously detailed, as demonstrated by a 82-page list of dietary and food preparation requirements lodged with Cricket Australia by the ECB. But the weather will force several changes to the best-laid blueprints of the team director Andy Flower, especially around the management of the bowling attack. James Anderson appeared likely to sit out the final match against an Invitational XI in Sydney but may now play, with the team for the SCG game now likely to very closely resemble England's first-choice team.

Alastair Cook, Andy Flower and Matt Prior inspect the damp, chilly scene, Australia A v England XI, Tour match, Hobart, 2nd day, November 7, 2013
England's players have had nothing to do but stand around watching the weather over the past two days in Hobart © Getty Images

Also affected by the rain are the selectors' thoughts about the batting order. Michael Carberry's unbeaten century on day one had strengthened his case for inclusion at the Gabba with Joe Root batting down the order. Two days of torpor for the rest of the batsmen, including Jonathan Trott and Pietersen, has now made Carberry's inclusion all but essential. Gooch said Carberry's chance arose due to Cook's stiff back after the flight from the north, and had now been further strengthened by the weather.

"An opportunity arose in that first game when Alastair had the stiff back, a condition he'd suffered with in the past, and Michael got a game and took his chance there," Gooch said. "We wanted to see a little bit more of him this game and he's done his chances no harm with playing with 150, and Joe's batted in the middle order when he started, so those options are still open and I don't think the team selection is finalised yet.

"Obviously not being on the field and seeing other guys bat as well, that complicates it a little bit but always I think you have an idea of what your side might be, but getting the batting line-up exactly right comes from watching a few matches. I don't think the side is completely settled at the moment. You want all your players to show form, so he's put a bit of a marker down for himself."

Several Australian batsmen have similar reasons to feel betrayed by the weather, as the likes of Alex Doolan, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja may have seen their chances of swaying John Inverarity and his selection panel washed away. George Bailey is heavily favoured to be named as the sixth batsman in Australia's Gabba squad and received a fiery welcome home from his possible Test team-mate Ryan Harris at Allan Border Field. He will bat again in the Tigers' second innings, while Doolan and company hope vainly for a change in the Hobart forecast.

"I guess you can't do anything about the weather, but it's very frustrating when you're just sitting and watching and waiting," Doolan said. "At this stage the selectors would have a fair idea of who they want to pick in the first Test so I don't know if this is an opportunity or not that I'm wasting at the moment."

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

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Posted by TenDonebyaShooter on (November 10, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

@jmcilhinney: "regardless of has or has not been said in the past and whether it was or was not accurate, England will undoubtedly be underdone leading into the first Test after losing so much of this game to rain. They scheduled 3 warmups before the series because that was how many they thought they needed so they now will not get as much cricket as they thought they needed before the first Test." That appears to presuppose that the England management's plans, which are anyway hampered in their implementation by hosts who are hardly likely to make it easy for them, divined with scientific accuracy in advance the amount of cricket needed to prepare their players for this series. That this is necessarily not the case is suggested both by the long history of English managements getting such things wrong, and by the fact that it is insistently contested in the "burnout" debate alluded to the best players these days are already too knackered from playing too much cricket.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 10, 2013, 9:06 GMT)

@TenDonebyaShooter on (November 10, 2013, 4:24 GMT), regardless of has or has not been said in the past and whether it was or was not accurate, England will undoubtedly be underdone leading into the first Test after losing so much of this game to rain. They scheduled 3 warmups before the series because that was how many they thought they needed so they now will not get as much cricket as they thought they needed before the first Test. That's not an excuse but it may be a reason if they don't do well. They're not the first team to lose time during warmups so they've just got to live with it. Mind you, many would say that some of the Australians won't have had ideal preparation either.

Posted by TenDonebyaShooter on (November 10, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

Surely the word "four" in the first sentence of this article should read "three". In terms of the main issue, discussions about England players seeming "underdone" appear to occur these days almost as frequenly as England play series, and almost as frequently as the entirely contradictory discussions about "burnout". I certainly remember a certain G Boycott suggesting that England were "underdone" ahead of the 2003-4 series in the West Indies (not that he'd care to remember that). We will just have to see what happens.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (November 10, 2013, 1:42 GMT)

The weather must have helped England an awful lot in 2010-11 for them to rack up 3 innings victories, don't you think? What incredible luck they must have had!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 9, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 9, 2013, 12:33 GMT), after 2.5 days of this game having been rained out, England will absolutely be underdone. I think that the only first choice player who was likely to be rested in game 3 is Anderson but can they afford to do that now? Broad and Swann both need more bowling so that would mean choosing only one of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin, but it's hard to see how they can be confident of who is the best option for Brisbane. They could leave out a batsman and play an extra bowler but who could they afford to leave out?

Posted by Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 9, 2013, 12:33 GMT)

OK, England's look on paper hasn't looked too good on the field so far this tour. Serious question, are any England supporters thinking the team might be underprepared going into the first test?

Posted by dunger.bob on (November 9, 2013, 11:42 GMT)

@ rd_se3 : I wondered if anyone would jump on that. Good to see I wasn't disappointed. And yes, you're right. England outplayed us mightily, it's as simple as that. I don't like to see too many excuses myself. .. I've always thought that excuses are the things you here from losers. You can lose but you don't have to be a loser.

Posted by rd_se3 on (November 9, 2013, 8:12 GMT)

"Where cool temperatures and overcast skies were a major contributor to England's Ashes victory in Australia four summers ago" - I think you'll find the major contributor was the fact that they were much better than Australia. Don't look for excuses.

Posted by   on (November 9, 2013, 7:54 GMT)

How embarrasing for england, while AUS players are racking up 100 after 100 against decent shield attacks the england middle order are bowled out for a bout 40 od runs by a substandard attack on an absolute road, Harris and Siddle are licking their lips at the thought of bowling to these bunnies

Posted by milepost on (November 9, 2013, 7:09 GMT)

Well if they get rain in Sydney, that could be a problem. Ideally the invitational 11 would win the toss and bat for 4 days, give the England bowlers a lot of practice. Seriously though as professional cricketers they should be able to pick up their games quickly even if preparation isn't ideal, especially after a spinach and mungbean curry!

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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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