Invitational XI v England XI, Tour match, SCG November 15, 2013

Root, Bairstow encourage England


CA Invitational XI 304 and 153 for 4 (Finch 59) lead England XI 418 (Trott 84, Cook 81, Root 75, Pietersen 57) by 39 runs

For an hour or so, Joe Root's little finger was of almost as much interest to England on day three of the tour match in Sydney as Kevin Pietersen's knee and Matt Prior's calf have been for most of the week. During an innings of 75 in which he reacquainted himself with the No. 6 position following a demotion from the top of the order, Root was struck a stinging blow on the glove by Josh Lalor and after his dismissal was sent to hospital for scans.

He returned soon after to field, however, and looked on happily enough from the slips as Jonny Bairstow completed a neat day with the bat and the gloves as he weighs up his chances of filling the same role in Brisbane next week. Bairstow's partnership with Root provided a glimpse of what may be an important middle-order alliance, should Prior not be fit, and they added 106 together before an expansive stroke sent the wicketkeeper back to the pavilion.

Afterwards Bairstow refused to admit to even the slightest hint of enthusiasm for an unfavourable injury report on Prior, though that news would return him to the Test team as the gloveman only one match after he was dropped as a batsman for the final match of the earlier Ashes encounter in England. Confident in his glovework under the tutelage of Bruce French, Bairstow acknowledged the location of big scores was the major obstacle to his development thus far.

"Everyone's hoping Matt's fit for English cricket - who wouldn't want him to be fit and taking the stage for the Gabba in that first Test?" Bairstow said. "But if that isn't the case it's an opportunity to go out there and play for your country. Over the last couple of days I've been happy with the performance I've put in behind the stumps with the gloves and if that is the case then so be it.

"It's obviously important after you make starts and go on and get that big one. That is something I didn't necessarily do in the summer and if I do get the opportunity to play that will be something I will be looking to do in this series. But it was good, tough cricket playing in the summer against Australia, the first time I'd played against them. It was a very enjoyable experience and something I'll look back on very fondly."

England's innings was wrapped up quite quickly on a wearing surface after Root's exit, the 20-year-old legspinner James Muirhead scooping four wickets for the innings to maintain the glimpses of promise he showed against Ian Bell and Pietersen on day two. That meant England's lead was only 114, and it soon dwindled as Aaron Finch set about the bowling in his preferred aggressive manner while accompanied by the more obstinate Ed Cowan.

Their stand of 81 was ended when Finch aimed one too many hearty blows at Graeme Swann, who gained some spin while dropping on to an increasingly precise length, and skied a catch to backward point. A more muted passage of play followed, as Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn both put in decent spells in their final opportunity to convince the team director, Andy Flower, of their worth as the third seamer behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

While he was again expensive, Finn gained some appreciable reverse swing as a rain-interrupted day drew toward its close and bowled Callum Ferguson between bat and pad with perhaps the ball of the match. Rankin was less visibly able to move the ball, but was again the more economical paceman. Bairstow acknowledged that movement with the old ball would be of major importance to the outcome of the series.

Finch's innings was what he hopes will be the first step towards bringing his brazen limited-overs style to the first-class arena, where he has struggled for some time with an approach muddled by orthodoxy when his primary skill is to play with instinct, flair and little time for steady accumulation. He was unfussed about ending the innings on a somewhat ungainly note, stating that he was now resolved to following that approach come what may.

"I've tried to curb my aggression for probably two years now and I've made about eight runs," Finch said. "I thought I'd keep going, it wasn't to be unfortunately but I still thought it was the right shot to play. I wasn't too disappointed about it. If that goes for six, who knows. I'm comfortable with myself doing that, if I try to block them I get angry at myself, so if I get out every now and then hitting one straight up I can wear that.

"It's just about assessing conditions, the stage of the game, we were a bit behind in the game and it wasn't going to be a long session so I thought it was a good opportunity to play some shots and try to put them on the back foot a little bit. It is risk/reward when you play like that and sometimes you're going to look like a bit of a goose, but I got away with it for a little while today."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on November 17, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    @landl47. I think you got him.... You know - back in England I have a very good accountant, excellent. Our long standing friend @Marcio would also make an excellent accountant, a creative accountant, with a particular taste for sour grapes. I just wonder where he was during the winter??? Clearly, he wasn't watching any cricket :-)

  • John on November 16, 2013, 13:12 GMT

    What series were you watching, Marcio? It can't have been the one where England had Australia 117-9 in the first innings of the first test, and 231-9 in the second innings and only the most runs for the 10th wicket in the history of test cricket saved them from being trounced. It can't have been the one where England ripped through Australia in the second innings of the 4th test in one session and won by 72 runs, and it can't have been the one where England (after reducing Australia to 111-6) scored over 200 at more than 5 an over on a fifth-day wicket and only failed to win because the umpires took the players off for bad light.

    You must have a vivid imagination if you think Australia was unlucky to lose that series.

  • Martin on November 16, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    Hey @Biggus my friend - how are ya! Got a very very tasty looking series coming up. Looking forward to sharing it with you again! 5w.

  • Martin on November 16, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx sorry mate I'm not following your argument. We won the last 3 series against Aus 2-1, 3-1 and 3-0 - in what sense are England on the run? The real danger - and I am not joking at all here because despite it all I love the way Aussie plays the greatest game - the real danger is that Australian youngsters are not drawn to the game in the way that they used to be. I'm back living in Australia again after a break of 10+ years and I can see the differences. I (genuinely) worry that if we give your mob another good whacking that will turn kids off of cricket even more. btw I was at the SCG today - the new stand looks great. I still miss The Hill the way it used to be though. I like your banter though - keep it up!

  • ESPN on November 16, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    Yorkshire 96. Agree with most of your post but Godelman! He was highly thought of early in his career, but now on his 3rd county and going backwards career wise!

  • j on November 16, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    Another day at the office for England. Hammering Aus at cricket..yet again. All the bowlers had a good net, and England's batsmen look in fine form. Can't wait for the test series to begin, hopefully by the end of the series not every Aus fan will have deserted their team like what has happened in the past. Finn should be number 11 for me, all the rest pick themselves.

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

    @5wombats:-Sorry mate, but this England side is not a fear inducing outfit. Mild apprehension is about the best you'll get from us.

  • Colin on November 16, 2013, 7:45 GMT

    @ Marcio thing is that it was 15 minutes away from 4-0! You cannot deny that. You guys dominated at the Oval but what can you criticise? Clarke's captaincy for being for being reckless or his bowlers for not being good enough on a 5th day wearing pitch? Maybe both. England won the important sessions and 4-0 may have flattered England but that is sport! Going through the gears when necessary. I think you are kidding yourself and posters like you just confirm what poor losers Aussies are. Indian & English pitches, DRS, injuries...yawn! Just get over it! I remember Slater not getting given run out at the SCG in 99, when England 'probably' would have won - can I chalk that down to 2-2 then and call you guys lucky? What about the injuries England had in 2001, 2002/3 or 2006/7.Can I dismiss them? Of course not! You guys were way better. Sometimes it is better to just admit you lost. '05 was not merely down to McGrath's injury & you were not better in '09 too. You kid yourself but nobody else

  • James on November 16, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    @5wombats: There's no fear among the Australians as there in nothing left to lose. Losing 3 times or 4 times makes no difference, but losing after winning is the real danger.

    The only people who are nervous are the English as they are the ones on the run, and sooner rather than later, will be caught.

  • subhasish on November 16, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    i donot think bairstow is ready for test cricket yes england pick him to grow him for the future but his tecnic need to be improve if he want play test cricket in 12 test bat avg 30 not sound great and as a kipper i donot think he matches parior also.i think prior should play in the 1st test every one in england say england will win the ashes but i donot think that in australia beating australia is hard job only south africa dose that 2 in last 20 years yes england beat aus in 2010 ashes in australia but this australian team is diffrent with so many young plasyers coming up like smith.fulkner.berly.dollen i think aus will win the ashes 3-0

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