Australia A v England XI, Tour match, Hobart November 8, 2013

Rain plays havoc with England plans

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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.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • drdickdixon 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • drdickdixon 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • HatsforBats on November 9, 2013, 4:59 GMT

    @ foozball, I guess so...but when Flower says "jump"...

  • HatsforBats on November 9, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    Well Ballance got a bat...umm, yeah. Obviously hard to form an impression off just a few balls. but the footwork was pretty absent. Is that a common theme to his play or just rust from a few days with the feet up? Root looked very very good, he just looks so natural & comfortable in his stance. I was much more impressed with Root's 50 than Carberry's 150.

  • landl47 on November 9, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    I'm a bit surprised that they didn't scrap the first-class game, which couldn't be finished anyway, and play a 50-over match instead. That would have given everybody a chance to bat and bowl and have been much more entertaining for the spectators.

    There's a precedent for this- the very first ODI was played in similar circumstances back in 1971.

  • foozball on November 9, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    @HatsforBats, I suppose it could be argued - Warne style, naturally - such a decision is reflective of Cook's passive, unstrategic cricketing mind...

  • Big_Maxy_Walker on November 9, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    Cutting looking again like the first day the only bowler who could be successful at the next level. Has very little help at the other end to create pressure. I don't know what CA were thinking with this lineup and the venue. Obviously they don't want to give the Poms experience on the 5 test venues and not expose any of the potential test attack. I think in the back of the mind they want to bowl Cutting into the ground so that they have an excuse not to pick him

  • xtrafalgarx on November 9, 2013, 2:01 GMT

    @Bonehead_maz: No, it's smart. Now the poms are underdone.

  • HatsforBats on November 9, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    The forecast was rubbish and yet Cook/Carberry still batted away the day. I can understand Carberry wanting to make the most of his opportunity, but Cook? Once he'd spent an entire session against that attack on that pitch was it really necessary for him to bat for two more when KP hasn't even faced a ball? He'd probably change that in hindsight. I haven't seen a lot of comments from English fans particularly pleased that Carberry is likely to get the test spot, and personally I've been looking forward to seeing how Ballance goes.

  • on November 8, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    Well played Australia. Warm up match in Hobart, a stadium without indoor facilities and good probability of rain during the match, limiting England preparation. Also traditionally a slow and low wicket, while the first test is at the hard and bouncy Gabba.

    Anybody who thinks that this as a miscalculation on Cricket Australia's behalf is very misguided.

  • Bonehead_maz on November 8, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    Think it's poor organisation by CA to have this match at a ground known for spring showers at a time when the indoor nets are not available. Must be frustrating for the Aussie bats too, not even being able to practice.

  • Narkovian on November 8, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    Weather looks as though it might relent tomorrow for some play. Plan of action. Carberry/Cook to retire. KP and Root etc to bat for a couple of hours. Then let the bowlers loose for the afternoon. Not much more can be done. As a match, its finished anyway.

    Next time. Don't use Hobart as a venue for warm-ups. It bears no relationship to the Test grounds we are going to play on.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 8, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    Well in the end, I guess realistically now it leaves just one more game for both teams to come up with something to try and make sure they pick the right teams for the first test. I do agree (this time) that looking at the weather forecast probably wouldn't have been any good for trying to decide who bats and when, but I sincerely hope that behind the scenes there are some useful nets/training sessions/strategy plans/team talks etc. to make good use of lost time. Guys can't spend all their lives just writing books and practicing their cooking skills...

  • milepost on November 8, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    It is actually possible that England will get to the Gabba with little practice and uncertainty about their best 11. Not ideal but these guys are professional cricketers, time in the middle would be good but I don't think it will make a massive difference.

  • Yevghenny on November 8, 2013, 13:58 GMT

    Not sure why people are worried about Carberry replacing Root at the top. Root has hardly excelled as an opener, and has offered much more coming in at 6 - a place that in itself has not been great for England since Collingwood retired and Bell moved up the order.

    I see it as absolutely nothing to lose in selected Carberry

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 8, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    There is no point in complaining about what can't be changed. That's life!

  • JG2704 on November 8, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    It's not ideal by any stretch , but this happens in Eng more than most countries.

    I suppose Eng will have decided on their batting line up already with Carberry opening with Cook (even though I worry about MC when up a level) and Root moving down to 6.3 of the 4 bowlers are nailed on so I guess it's a 3 way battle between the lankies. Personally I'd probably go with the Irish lanky. Finn seems to have gone off the boil and CT hasn't done much since coming back from injury. I also think they may even declare overnight. If the weather aint good then Aus XI will not have time to chase it and Broad needs a workout

  • Beertjie on November 8, 2013, 11:58 GMT

    Will Bresnan be back before the G test? If not, England will struggle to bowl Oz out if Anderson doesn't strike early. Looking more even, but I'll trade Bresnan's fitness for Pattinson's.

  • zoot on November 8, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    It's not desperate England have another warm-up game so the batsmen will get a knock and the bowlers will get a bowl. I think the problem with the bowlers is self-inflicted. Finn, Tremlett and Boyd all have question marks against them. The selectors should have chosen one more steady, reliable seam bowler (Onions ?). As it is they may need Bresnan back as soon as possible.

  • yorkshire-86 on November 8, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    Ideal for Australia. Our best batsmen and best bowler have not had any practice, and the selectors will probably have been deluded into thinking Carberry is anywhere near good enough to play cricket at this level off the back off a 100 against deceleration bowling on a total road. Playing with Carberry will be like playing with ten men when it comes to the Tests.

  • on November 8, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Possible scenario Day 4 - England declare on 318-0 and both teams forfeit an innings. Aus A320-6 meaning England would lose having lost no wickets - has this ever happened before?

  • on November 8, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    yes but they,re not but I,m happy with England being 318-0 rather than the aussies having done the same to us-keep the faith this is a weak Australia side.

  • dunger.bob on November 8, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    Hey, two players got a bat so what's everyone complaining about. And those fringe Aussie bowlers got to bowl, and bowl, and bowl to those same two batsmen, so that's all good isn't it.

    Of course there's always the argument that we do have weather forecasts in this country and it wasn't as though the rain was a huge surprise to anyone who's seen a weather report recently. In those circumstances was it all that clever to allow the openers to monopolise the crease the way they did. Maybe retiring one or both at tea would have been a better move.

    Anyway, England is 200% professional so it's probably all just part of some cunning plan.

  • jmcilhinney on November 8, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    Even if Cook and Carberry had retired after making hundreds, there still wouldn't have been much opportunity for the rest of the batsmen and none for the bowlers. A little is better than none though. Given the forecast, it doesn't look like day 4 will be any better. I guess a number of touring teams have been underdone in England due to rain, e.g. WI two summers ago, but I do feel bad for individual players. It's going to make choosing among Finn, Tremlett and Ranking difficult for one thing. Whether or not Tremlett was able to perform in this game would have gone a long way to helping sort that out. There's still a bit of a dilemma regarding the #6 spot too. Presumably Root is the frontrunner and Bairstow seems to be on the outs but Ballance seems to still have been a chance. Hopefully the Sydney game is not rain-affected because there are a number of England players who really need a good run out. I don't think Cook will bat so long himself there.

  • on November 8, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    I'd be worried about the lack of practice if England were playing South Africa.

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  • on November 8, 2013, 7:22 GMT

    I'd be worried about the lack of practice if England were playing South Africa.

  • jmcilhinney on November 8, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    Even if Cook and Carberry had retired after making hundreds, there still wouldn't have been much opportunity for the rest of the batsmen and none for the bowlers. A little is better than none though. Given the forecast, it doesn't look like day 4 will be any better. I guess a number of touring teams have been underdone in England due to rain, e.g. WI two summers ago, but I do feel bad for individual players. It's going to make choosing among Finn, Tremlett and Ranking difficult for one thing. Whether or not Tremlett was able to perform in this game would have gone a long way to helping sort that out. There's still a bit of a dilemma regarding the #6 spot too. Presumably Root is the frontrunner and Bairstow seems to be on the outs but Ballance seems to still have been a chance. Hopefully the Sydney game is not rain-affected because there are a number of England players who really need a good run out. I don't think Cook will bat so long himself there.

  • dunger.bob on November 8, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    Hey, two players got a bat so what's everyone complaining about. And those fringe Aussie bowlers got to bowl, and bowl, and bowl to those same two batsmen, so that's all good isn't it.

    Of course there's always the argument that we do have weather forecasts in this country and it wasn't as though the rain was a huge surprise to anyone who's seen a weather report recently. In those circumstances was it all that clever to allow the openers to monopolise the crease the way they did. Maybe retiring one or both at tea would have been a better move.

    Anyway, England is 200% professional so it's probably all just part of some cunning plan.

  • on November 8, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    yes but they,re not but I,m happy with England being 318-0 rather than the aussies having done the same to us-keep the faith this is a weak Australia side.

  • on November 8, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Possible scenario Day 4 - England declare on 318-0 and both teams forfeit an innings. Aus A320-6 meaning England would lose having lost no wickets - has this ever happened before?

  • yorkshire-86 on November 8, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    Ideal for Australia. Our best batsmen and best bowler have not had any practice, and the selectors will probably have been deluded into thinking Carberry is anywhere near good enough to play cricket at this level off the back off a 100 against deceleration bowling on a total road. Playing with Carberry will be like playing with ten men when it comes to the Tests.

  • zoot on November 8, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    It's not desperate England have another warm-up game so the batsmen will get a knock and the bowlers will get a bowl. I think the problem with the bowlers is self-inflicted. Finn, Tremlett and Boyd all have question marks against them. The selectors should have chosen one more steady, reliable seam bowler (Onions ?). As it is they may need Bresnan back as soon as possible.

  • Beertjie on November 8, 2013, 11:58 GMT

    Will Bresnan be back before the G test? If not, England will struggle to bowl Oz out if Anderson doesn't strike early. Looking more even, but I'll trade Bresnan's fitness for Pattinson's.

  • JG2704 on November 8, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    It's not ideal by any stretch , but this happens in Eng more than most countries.

    I suppose Eng will have decided on their batting line up already with Carberry opening with Cook (even though I worry about MC when up a level) and Root moving down to 6.3 of the 4 bowlers are nailed on so I guess it's a 3 way battle between the lankies. Personally I'd probably go with the Irish lanky. Finn seems to have gone off the boil and CT hasn't done much since coming back from injury. I also think they may even declare overnight. If the weather aint good then Aus XI will not have time to chase it and Broad needs a workout

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 8, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    There is no point in complaining about what can't be changed. That's life!