England 349 for 6 dec (Stoneman 85, Vince 82, Hardie 2-46) drew with Western Australia 342 (Philippe 88, Hinchliffe 75, Anderson 4-27, Overton 2-70)
In the grand scheme of things, this was probably exactly the day England needed.
Coming off an unusually long layoff (by their standards; it is two months since most of this side played a red-ball match), England’s first-choice seam attack gained miles in the legs and exposure to the conditions that may serve them well in the weeks ahead. The Western Australia innings was extended – some of their batsmen were allowed to bat again having been dismissed – to ensure England gained a full day in the field. Long before the end, the match had turned into little more than a training session.
In such circumstances, it is probably wise not to reach for too many conclusions. But England will have noted the control offered by Jake Ball – who, James Anderson apart, was easily the most impressive of the seamers – and the struggle Craig Overton had maintaining the required length. They will have noted, too, that Mason Crane tired after a good start – he was plundered for three successive boundaries late in the day – and that Stuart Broad looked as if he needed plenty more overs ahead of the Test series.
And they will, not for the first time, have been grateful for the enduring qualities of Anderson. In conditions in which none of his colleagues could gain any appreciable movement – Chris Woakes, in particular, was pretty much straight up and down – Anderson claimed two wickets in a mid-afternoon spell of five overs for nine runs through his ability to make the ball reverse. He returned later to claim two more wickets in a three-over spell without conceding a run.
There were some worrying moments, though. Moments when England looked just a bit toothless and just a little over-reliant on Anderson. Moments when they looked almost powerless to stop a 20-year-old without a first-class game behind him scoring at will. Moments when you suspected they could face some long days in the field before this trip is over.
That was never more apparent than when Josh Philippe was rattling his way to 88 not out at lunch. Driving unusually well – he got underway by thumping Broad on the up through extra cover – and was merciless on anything even remotely overpitched. He pulled well, too, and hit 16 fours in his 92-ball innings. Had England’s over rate been better – they managed just 25 overs in the first session – he may well have managed a century before lunch.
They may be concerned, too, by a couple of dropped chances. Jonny Bairstow was unable to cling on to a tricky chance offered by Jake Carder off Woakes when he had 18 while Root, at second slip, put down Philippe on 72 off Ball when the batsman edged an attempted cut. Neither was especially easy but, in such circumstances, when chances are so tough to earn, it is essential England accept such opportunities.
There are caveats to all this, though. Most of all, Philippe looks a terrific prospect. He made 93 and 64 in the Futures League against Tasmania recently and scored heavily in club cricket for Taunton in 2017. He also represented Durham’s second XI on a couple of occasions. There is no reason at all why he should not go on to enjoy a successful career in the game.
The pitch, too, by WACA standards, was slow and flat. And with little swing, spin or seam moment in evidence, it was always a day when batsmen were likely to enjoy themselves. This was a warm-up game, after all.
We learned a couple of things, too. We learned that England’s new slip cordon – sans Ben Stokes – is likely to see Dawid Malan at third slip (Alastair Cook remains at first and Root is at second), with James Vince in the gully. We learned that Overton, for all his inconsistency, could trouble batsmen with a sharp change of pace – twice he struck players on the helmet with rearing short deliveries and he also gained the first wicket of the day with Carder falling to the hook trap – and we learned that Woakes, for all his qualities in England, is still searching for a way to make the kookaburra ball move sideways.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all was that, in Philippe, Western Australia have an exciting prospect. He missed out on a century when he skipped down the wicket and attempted to hit Crane back over his head – Bairstow completed a neat stumping – while 21-year-old Clint Hinchliffe later complied an increasingly attractive 75. He, too, has yet to play first-class cricket but both would appear to be names to keep an eye upon.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo