Mark Butcher discusses the impact that the absences of both Moeen Ali and Steven Finn will have on the England side ahead of their opening warm-up match in Perth. (1:11)
Scans on the pair have confirmed that Moeen (left side) and Finn (left knee) will not be fit for selection for either the two-day warm-up match starting in Perth on Saturday, or next week’s four-day match played under lights in Adelaide. It means both players will have a maximum of one warm-up match – the four-day game in Townsville starting on November 15 – ahead of the Ashes.
It appears the injury to Finn is the more serious. While Moeen believes he could, if necessary, play at present, such is his importance to the squad that he will be rested as a precaution and not risked until the match in Townsville. The England camp are not unduly concerned by the possibility of his being sidelined any longer than that.
Finn’s knee injury is more of a concern. He will be monitored by the England medical team over the next week when a further discussion on his fitness will take place. No date has been given for his return though it does seems the scan results are somewhat better than were feared.
He sustained the injury while batting in the nets on Friday. Whether it was an impact blow – he appeared to jam the bat or a combination of the bat and the ball into his left knee – remains unclear. It seems he also twisted his leg while attempting to play the next delivery and that is when he started to experience more pain.
Any further setback for Finn would be a bitterly cruel blow for a man deemed “unselectable” on the previous Ashes tour four years ago. Having fought his way back to the brink of the side – and having enjoyed some fine moments in England and South Africa since – he had a good opportunity to earn some happier memories of Ashes tours.
The fitness issues have persuaded England to re-think their plans for the two-day warm-up match against a Western Australia XI starting on Saturday. While Joe Root had initially hoped to field something close to his best team – he suggested on Thursday England would pick 12 players for the match – he has now decided to play 13 to ensure none of them are overworked.
That means that every fit player except the reserve keeper, Ben Foakes, can expect an opportunity over the weekend.
The most intense competition for places would appear to be between Jake Ball and Craig Overton for the final seam-bowling spot and Dawid Malan and Gary Ballance for the No. 5 batting spot. At present, it seems Overton and Malan have their noses in front but a persuasive performance over the weekend could yet sway things.
Meanwhile the coach of the Western Australia XI, Stewart Walters – who is usually one of the assistant coaches for the team but finds himself thrust into the spotlight with Justin Langer and co otherwise engaged with the Shield side – warned that his inexperienced team, led by Australia international Nathan Coulter-Nile, had the ability to hurt England in the next couple of days.
In particular, he suggested young fast bowler Lance Morris should enjoy the WACA surface, while Jake Carder recently made a maiden List A century against South Australia.
“Lance Morris bowls fast,” Walters said. “It’s a great opportunity for him. And Nathan Coulter-Nile will bowl 100% and give it everything he’s got. He’ll be aggressive.
“We want to be ruthless with the ball. We want to make the first 10 runs as hard work as they can be. We’re here to win the game.”
While Walters’ comments are perfectly reasonable – indeed, he could hardly be expected to say anything else – there is a sense that Root, in particular, is tiring of the pre-series rhetoric. Responding to yet another enquiry over the “wounds” and “scars” England are carrying from their thrashing in 2013-14, Root provided a gentle but somewhat world-weary reminder that England had actually won the last encounter between these two teams and currently hold the Ashes.
“There’s been a lot of talk about last time round,” Root said. “But we’re a completely different side and so are they.
“Of course, they’ll try to bring up all sorts of stuff like that. But we’ve obviously played a lot of cricket since then and have played against Australia. And it went quite well for us.”
Fortunately for everyone, the time for talking is nearly over.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo