Anderson, Root enjoy time in middle
Australia A 3 for 119 (Doolan 31, Anderson 2-20) drew with England XI 7 for 430 dec (Cook 154, Carberry 153, Root 58, Cutting 2-75)
England have one senior player injured and another trio well short of rhythm, while Australia sorely need Shane Watson in their batting order during the Ashes and could do much worse than adding Ben Cutting to their bowling attack for the first Test. This much was clear on the final afternoon of the tour match in Hobart, as Alastair Cook's team tried to make up for two days of lost play by offering time in the middle to batsmen and bowlers alike.
Aside from the troubling news of Matt Prior's calf problem less than two weeks before the toss of the coin at the Gabba, there were plenty of other portents to be drawn from the afternoon's cricket on both sides. While a nervy Gary Ballance made his first run in an England shirt before exiting for a scratchy four from 17 balls, Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann were glimpsed only briefly, and must now all be expected to play in the final warm-up in Sydney next week.
James Anderson bowled with familiar class, exposing the shortcomings of Alex Doolan and Usman Khawaja in particular. Doolan's 31 was fluent and attractive as he often is, but ended when Anderson burst through a rather large gap between bat and pad to clip off the bails. Khawaja hung his bat out a little too predictably at a ball moving across him, leaving the national selectors to hope the encouraging progress of Watson's hamstring ailment, confirmed from Brisbane on Saturday by the national coach Darren Lehmann, continues.
Broad and Swann at least bowled a few cobweb-shedding overs each in the final session, but Pietersen was given out lbw to a Trent Copeland delivery that crept through low after a brief and unconvincing stay. Cook and Michael Carberry retired on their three-day-old totals, before the rest of the batsmen were made to scrap particularly hard for their runs by the Queenslander Cutting, who bowled with speed, accuracy and hostility to make a decent case for inclusion in the Brisbane squad.
The strong intention of Australia's selectors to give England as little quality bowling as possible did not align with Cutting's equally firm desire to state his case. Figures of 9-3-17-2 make for compelling reading, and it was equally arresting to view Cutting's use of a still newish ball on a pitch freshened up somewhat by two days under the covers. Pursuing a full length and line around off stump, he beat all batsmen with movement off the pitch, coaxing an edge from Jonathan Trott before ending Ballance's stay with a ball that straightened after pitching in line for a clear lbw.
All the while Joe Root showed a similar disparity between front and back foot to that he demonstrated in the previous Ashes bout. Though struggling mightily to keep out anything pitched up, eluding a desperately close lbw appeal by Cutting, he thrived on anything short and improved somewhat in fluency as the innings went on. It was while batting with Root that Prior experienced calf tightness, and after his innings ended with a predetermined attempt to sweep Jon Holland it was to be Root who took the wicketkeeping gloves when Cook declared.
The moment of the closure coincided with another curious passage of play involving Broad, who swung Holland into the deep where Khawaja took a fine low catch. Fulfilling his now familiar role of agent provocateur, Broad appeared to query whether or not Khawaja had scooped it up on the bounce, resulting in a brief stand-off before Cook called both batsmen in.
Doolan opened with Michael Klinger, and quickly asserted himself with a confident flurry of boundaries. It was Broad who suffered most, two consecutive fours through the offside followed by a sharp bouncer that struck Doolan on the arm. Another followed that sailed over Root's head for five wides, before Anderson struck at the other end to remove Doolan for the kind of pretty cameo he had specialised in with Tasmania for several seasons before maturing.
Klinger's stay was longer but less compelling, several lbw appeals denied and 17 balls elapsing before he scampered a first run. But he was to outlast Khawaja, and forged on until departing lbw to Swann in the closing overs. Shaun Marsh played with composure and no great haste in the company of Callum Ferguson as the match petered out, to be replaced by the sight of England sending their remaining players out for centre-wicket practice at the moment stumps were called. Time is getting tight.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here