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England opt against keeping Lions squad members on in Australia

James Bracey among those flying home despite fourth-innings hundred against Australia A

James Bracey celebrates his hundred with Ben Foakes, Australia A vs England Lions, Ian Healy Oval, Brisbane, December 12, 2021

James Bracey celebrates his hundred with Ben Foakes  •  Getty Images

England's management have opted not to keep any of the 14-man Lions squad on with the Ashes squad in Australia, with the majority of the touring party flying home on Tuesday.
The England Lions squad travelled to Australia in early November along with the members of the Ashes touring party that were not involved in the T20 World Cup in the UAE. They were due to shadow the main squad and provide opposition in internal warm-up games, but inclement weather limited their preparation to seven full sessions.
During the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, the Lions played Australia A in a four-day fixture at Ian Healy Oval. They were heavily beaten after being bowled out for 103 in their first innings. Despite 113 from James Bracey and half-centuries for Ben Foakes and Josh Bohannon in the second innings, and 5 for 58 from Liam Norwell in the first, none of the squad have been kept on to provide cover for the Ashes squad.
Four members of the team that played against Australia A will remain in the country. Dom Bess, the back-up spinner to Jack Leach in the main squad, was picked for the four-day game ahead of Matt Parkinson and Mason Crane - two of four Lions players not involved, along with Sam Cook and Jamie Smith - while Tom Abell (Brisbane Heat), Harry Brook (Hobart Hurricanes) and Saqib Mahmood (Sydney Thunder) are all involved in the BBL.
Bracey, whose 113 off 295 balls marked a successful return to an England shirt - albeit a Lions one - after he struggled in his first two Tests against New Zealand in June and was promptly dropped, said that being kept on for the main tour had not been "at the forefront of our minds", with three back-up batters (Jonny Bairstow, Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence) already part of the Ashes squad.
"It's a big squad, the Ashes squad, and there's a few batters waiting in the wings," he told reporters in Brisbane. "It's not been a huge thing at the forefront of our mind. But if it's now, or in later years, it's great to put a case forward in a Lions Test, and to get a hundred was really pleasing.
"I'm going home with one more first-class hundred than I had going out. In a year with a lots of ups and downs I've really backed myself technique-wise. Where my head's at is probably the big thing. There has been a lot to process, lots of stuff thrown at me.
"That was my aim coming out on this tour, [to] put a few things I've been working on into practice and this last couple of days caps it off. I'm really pleased with how it's gone and really happy with where my head is at currently. After what has happened it's good for me to relax.
"If I continue to put labels and targets on things and put everything on trying to get back in the Test team it wouldn't be good for me or for my game. Obviously I have that desire… to play Test cricket again and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later, but if it doesn't I'll keep working and see where my career takes me."