CA Chairman's XI v England XI, Alice Springs, 2nd day November 30, 2013

England tour veering off course


England XI 212 for 7 dec (Ballance 55) and 47 for 1 drew with CA Chairman's XI 254 for 8 dec (Swann 4-56)

It says much for England's lacklustre performance in Alice Springs that there were times when it was hard to tell which team was the No. 3-ranked Test side and which was populated with players as green as the lush outfield at Traeger Park.

Perhaps it was natural that England produced such a performance lacking intensity in this match. This two-day game was, in reality, little more than a practice session and some of England's players might have been understandably reluctant to fully extend themselves a few days ahead of the second Test.

But there were several players for whom this game presented an opportunity. The fringe batsmen were fighting to earn the final place in the top six; the fast bowlers were fighting for the position of third seamer. Even Monty Panesar might have felt he had a chance of staking a claim for a place in the side.

Yet few players made persuasive cases for their advancement and, as England head into the second Test on Thursday, they do so with an uncomfortable number of awkward questions to answer. Thrashed in Brisbane and shocked by the departure of Jonathan Trott, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that England's tour is veering alarmingly off course.

Whereas in 2010-11 they had a settled team - Steven Finn was the only man dropped during that series - this time they have doubts about two of the top three, their No. 6 and their third seamer. For a side that prides itself on planning and preparation, that is an uncomfortable place to be.

A couple of issues were resolved, though. On the evidence of this game, it seems most unlikely that Finn or Boyd Rankin - both of whom were out-bowled by 21-year-old Simon Mackin, a man without a first-class appearance - will be considered for Adelaide.

Tim Bresnan will be assessed by England's medical staff on Sunday and, unless his readiness is thought to be beyond reasonable doubt, Chris Tremlett will surely remain the third seamer in the second Test. Both Rankin and Finn bowled themselves out of contention in Alice Springs. Finn, a shadow of the menacing fast bowler that he has shown glimpses he can be, may well have bowled himself out of contention for the series.

Having wasted the new ball through a surfeit of short balls - the Chairman XI's openers were hardly required to play a shot in the first 40 minutes of play - the pair were thrashed around the ground by 20-year-old tailender, James Muirhead. On a brutally hot day, England looked weary and fed-up some time before the Chairman's XI earned a 42-run first innings lead.

It would be a huge risk to pick Panesar, too. While his bowling improved after a rusty start - his first delivery for England since the Auckland Test in March was a full toss - he looked nervous and fallible in the field. By the time he bowled Steven Cazzulino with a beauty through the gate, Ian Bell rated his bowling "back to his best" but, after Panesar's experiences in recent months and Trott's in recent days, to plunge him into the unforgiving atmosphere of an Ashes Test would verge on the reckless.

At least Graeme Swann enjoyed a decent day. Against batsmen determined to attack him from the start, he claimed three wickets to failed attempts to hit him over the top and then had 16-year-old Jake Doran, who had earlier pulled Panesar to the boundary, taken at short-leg.

A couple of the Chairman's XI players will have done their reputations no harm. Steven Cazzulino and Ashton Turner were patient, Josh Lalor - a player of Aboriginal descent - attacked effectively, while Marcus Harris, who punished Rankin and Finn with a series of cuts and pulls, looked a fine player who could go on to enjoy a decent career.

But Mackin is the one to watch. He dismissed Joe Root with a brute of a ball that reared from just back of a length and took the glove on its way to the keeper. It was a wicket that exposed not just the poor length of England's bowlers, but the trouble Root has in dealing with the pace and bounce of these wickets. Gary Ballance was also beaten outside off stump by Mackin and looked relieved to reach stumps, though Michael Carberry acquitted himself pretty well.

This match was never just about the result. And, in terms of spreading the reach of the game, it should probably be deemed a success: nearly 3,500 spectators attended and the England players took the time to coach groups of local kids. In terms of preparation for the second Test, however, England found little to reassure them.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mayan on December 3, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    As a South African I enjoyed one of my very best cricketing days watching Faf du Plessis frustrate the Ausie bowlers for more than a day in Adelaide on South Africa's last tour. As a reward for him and the Proteas that test was drawn. He completely humiliated the entire Australia! I absolutely loved every moment of it. I sincerely hope England can find a Faf come the 2nd Ashes test. If they do, the chances are good that they can plant another knockout. Come on England . . . please make my day!

  • mahesh on December 3, 2013, 12:02 GMT

    As an Indian,while I applaude Aus's dominent performance in da first test, I'd be fool 2 forget dat England's good at comebacks as they've shown against us & other teams. England's been a good test team in general for last 1-2 year. Aus's batting still looks fragile except for Clarke.Others have been too inconsistent to arouse too much confidence. I'd give Bailey more chances 2 prove since he looks a decent bat. Although Johnson looks in good form, he might loose the rhythm. I'd always put my money on harris though. if Adelaide is slow & turns than England has advantage with Monty & swann, bcoz Aus don't have a good 2nd spinner. Plus england plays spinner better than aussies as their performance in India showed. But I will support Aus 4 this series. I'm happy that Aus is rising up again after a dismal 1 year bcoz it's gud 4 the game 2 have many rather than having only 1 good team. May Trott revover & return soon. he is an awesome bat. watchout for Cook, bell, clark & watson i adelaide.

  • Richard on December 3, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    Finn simply does not know how to pitch the ball up. He bowled too short when England were last out here (and promptly got dropped), bowled too short again in England (and got dropped again), and has bowled too short on this tour. His International career is effectively over.

  • richard on December 3, 2013, 2:18 GMT

    @ DJAbacus on (December 2, 2013, 8:44 GMT) I was once like you mate, just sat in the corner and read and listened how good sorry great England are, never to be beaten again, Then the saffers carved em up, but we just sat there and listened while you all told us it did not matter England would still whitewash Australia because we are bog average with no depth. (what goes around comes around}

  • Darren on December 2, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Antony Marshall, I was once like you. I believed that based on the recent results of both sides England had a chance to come back in this series. I believed that skill and experience counted for something. However, thanks to cricket visionaries like Michael Flynn and other similar Aussie supporters I have realized that winning a test match means you are the best team in the world. I see now that because England lost the first Test match, no matter that there are four test to play, they should go home, retire and become sheep farmers. Join us comrade, let us all hold hands and rejoice for Australia are now the greatest test team in the World and shall be forever more. Amen

  • ESPN on December 2, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Short-Armed-Jabba: if by "normal service resumed" you mean "beat England for the first time in 8 attempts, and loose 3 ashes series in a row" then I agree with you!

  • A on December 2, 2013, 5:03 GMT


    Root has been found out many times by the Aussie quicks and he was lucky to score the 180 last ashes ( he was dropped half a dozen times on the way). I'm sure the Aussie quicks will be licking their lips at the prospect of having England 2 down for not many with Harris all but guaranteed to account for Cook while Root wont hang around for very long as he has repeatedly shown weakness to the full ball. Also, normal service resumed at the conclusion of the GABBA test match with the Aussies crushing England like they had consistently done in recent times including 8 in a row from 89' to 02/03' and who could forget the 5-0 white wash in 06/07. Interestingly, both teams have won an equal amounts of ashes series, 31 each!

  • Andrew on December 2, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    @Mark Francome - the article was written by a Pom mate. Its not just Ozzy fans who think the Poms are in a bit of trouble right now. Yes, Oz have won ONE test & yes there is 4 to go- but Oz DID NOT play " good as they possibly could..." & England certainly did not play " bad as they have for several decades..." The two squads are fairly close in terms of overall talent, with England a long way ahead in experience, HOWEVER, momentum is with Oz (this includes confidence & motivation) against an England appear to be wallowing - things could be viewed completely differently after Adelaide - but right now, on the back of Alice Springs & the Trott saga - England are looking very 1990s.

  • Ralph on December 2, 2013, 2:02 GMT

    Why the sudden rush to condemn England after one bad Test performance and a nothing two dayer? There are dozens of wickets to take, hundreds of overs to bowl and thousands of runs to be made yet. I'm surprised the supporters are jumping at shadows so soon.Adelaide, for the first time in.. well just about ever, is an unknown pitch. You would tink both sides will need an allrounder or extra bowler. Worse case scenario is not losing this test. For England it is Anderson and Broad breaking down by having to bowl lots of overs in Adelaide and not being able to bowl with any venom in the remaining 3 tests. Without thse two England is in deep trouble. For Australia, it is losing Harris for the summer and for the top order to fail again. They cannot keep relying on Haddin and the bowlers to rescue them. No matter how good our bowlers, if the batsmen cannot give them a target we will lose more tests then we win.

  • M on December 1, 2013, 23:37 GMT

    @Mark Francome; Australia played as best they could? Really? Take a look at the first innings, they were 6/132, in trouble with none of the top order scoring... I think they could play a bit better than that. But credit to them like to Eng in the Northern Summer, they won the pivotal points in the match.

    I think if you were truly unbiased, you would acknowledge that for a few weather interruptions, the Aus side might easily have squared the series in England earlier this year... and were in the fight in at least one other match...

    After day 1, England didn't even bother showing up in the first test. But we don't base our claims on one match... Australia didn't play that poorly over there despite the result and have continued it in the return series on pitches they are more familiar with. Lets see if England have it in them to match us this time.

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