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August 17, 2013
Australians 227 for 6 (Watson 45, Stokes 2-27) drew with England Lions 269 for 7 dec (Ballance 104)
On the eve of this match, Australia's coach Darren Lehmann was asked whether any restrictions would be placed on how long a batsman could play, given the two-day contest was limited to 100 overs per side. "I don't think we're at that stage where we can do that," Lehmann said. "If someone can bat 100 overs, they bat 100 overs." It turns out even surviving for 100 balls was too tall an order for any of the Australians.
Matthew Wade and James Faulkner might have got there, well established as they were when bad light ended play just after 5pm, consigning the one-innings match to a draw with Australia on 227 for 6 in their chase of 270. But the very fact that only one of Australia's top six - Phillip Hughes - lasted longer at the crease than the No.7 and 8 batsmen suggested the day had been a bust for the Australians, who needed to gain some batting confidence.
When play was abandoned, Wade was on 38 from 69 deliveries and Faulkner had 29 from 75 balls, but it was the efforts of Hughes and Usman Khawaja that were under greater scrutiny given the likely battle for the No.3 spot at The Oval. Neither man made the big score he wanted but Hughes won on crease occupation against a solid all-round England Lions attack, albeit on a pitch that didn't offer much in the way of sideways movement.
It was telling that Khawaja, the incumbent first-drop in the Test team, was demoted to No.6. His only scoring stroke was a crisp on-drive off his pads for four but he was caught behind when he prodded outside off and edged Ben Stokes for 4. By comparison, Hughes looked uncomfortable at times, including when he fell over while playing a hook off James Harris and when he copped a few shortish deliveries on the body, but at least he found a way to survive.
Hughes played some classy strokes as well, a couple of cover-drives in particular, before playing back when Keith Barker dropped the ball short of a length and playing on for 30 from 92 deliveries. It was a start wasted, but Hughes was not alone in that regard. Shane Watson and David Warner both struck the ball well but failed to reach half-centuries, and Ed Cowan and Steven Smith made starts but no more. None showed the selectors what they wanted to see.
Smith looked in terrific touch when using his feet against the spin of Simon Kerrigan, but less so against pace and he was yorked by Stokes on 18. Watson had also hinted at fine form and crunched three boundaries from one Kerrigan over, forcing him down the ground with cross-batted swipes and a loft over mid-off, and he also slog-swept him for a cleanly-struck six. But on 45, Watson picked out fine leg with a hook off Harris and it was another case of looking good but getting out.
Warner had also played some encouraging drives before he came down the pitch and was stumped for 35 when Kerrigan squirted the ball wider. His opening partner, Cowan, was more circumspect and scored his only boundary with a cut through point when Kerrigan dropped short and his innings ended on 17 when he edged behind off Liam Plunkett, who came around the wicket and got a delivery to straighten down the line.
Stokes was the most impressive of the England Lions bowlers, collecting 2 for 27 and having a catch put down that should have been his third - Wade was on 3 when his cut to gully was spilled by Plunkett. Stokes bowled with sharp pace and was always at the batsmen, although by the end of the day Wade and Faulkner were looking comfortable during their unbeaten 67-run stand.
Earlier, England Lions had declared on their overnight score of 269 for 7 after morning drizzle reduced the first session to 75 minutes. Bad light prevented a result but an Australian win would have done little to hide their ongoing batting issues ahead of The Oval Test.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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