Cricket Australia XI 233 for 9 dec and 70 for 7 (Woakes 4-17) need a further 194 runs to beat England 293 and 203 (Bairstow 61, Stoneman 51, Milenko 5-34)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England are doing everything by the book at the start of their tour of Australia. Unfortunately, the book is The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Not read it? It’s a Hemingway short story about a couple stranded while on safari in Africa. The man has sustained a leg injury that has turned gangrenous and they both know help won’t arrive in time to save him. His last moments are spent observing the howls of the approaching vultures and hyenas. It’s not full of belly laughs.
The mood on this England tour is starting to feel similarly gloomy. The loss of Ben Stokes might, in time, be considered the fatal blow. But the succession of injuries to a high number of seamers who might have found themselves in the side has further debilitated the team. Meanwhile Mitchell Starc and co are howling in the distance, hungry for meat.
The main issue is the relentless stream of injuries. England are currently awaiting the results of a scan on Jake Ball’s injured right ankle. The suspicion at this stage is the injury – perhaps minor ligament damage – is not tour-ending but may keep him out of action for another week or so.
With that in mind, there is talk of sending for more cover. One of the bowlers with the Lions, who are due to arrive in Australia on November 15, could well be asked to fly a few days early and join the Ashes squad on a short-term basis ahead of the warm-up match in Townsville. But while Tom Helm has declared himself fit, he only bowled off his full run for the first time at Loughborough on Thursday and England have concerns about his readiness.
With Mark Wood (heel/ankle) also not deemed fully fit – both will travel with the Lions but do not appear to be in the reckoning for a call to the full England squad – the options are becoming more limited by the moment.
As a result, it seems England will look to youth to help them out. George Garton, a 20-year-old with nine first-class matches behind him, is one candidate, while 19-year-old Josh Tongue, a veteran of 15 first-class matches, is another. Both are blessed with pace – they would be the quickest bowlers in the England party – and Garton, with his left-arm, whippy action, has bowled at the England squad several times in the nets. They would not become permanent members of the Ashes tour party, just provide some cover in Townsville.
Liam Plunkett is currently playing in Bangladesh and may not be considered for that reason. But should Ball’s injury be worse than feared – or should anyone else suffer an injury – Plunkett will come into the equation.
With so many injuries around the squad, there may be a temptation to look at the conditioning – or the technique – of the bowlers. And in the long-term, no doubt, there are issues to consider in terms of the stress fractures, in particular. But the injuries suffered on this tour – a bowler landing badly in delivery (Ball) or twisting his knee while batting (Steven Finn) – are simply bad luck.
As if all this wasn’t trying enough, England suffered a batting collapse on the third day in Adelaide. After a solid start, they lost 7 for 47, which included going from 121 for 3 to 124 for 7, as an inexperienced Cricket Australia XI gave them some uncomfortable moments.
These things happen, of course. With the floodlights on for much of an unusually humid day, the ball nipped around more than at any stage of the game and batting was not straightforward. England still have more than enough to win this match – particularly having retaliated by reducing the CA XI to 25 for 7 under lights and requesting the extra half hour in pushing for a three-day victory.
But these games aren’t really about the result. They are about finding form ahead of the Test series. And, with their batting in particular, England look ominously fragile.
Most worrying is the form of Alastair Cook. Cook has endured fallow patches before, of course, and in the grand scheme of things this run of low scores – he hasn’t made 35 for six first-class innings – amounts to very little. He has earned an extended spell of patience and there is reasonable confidence he will turn things around.
His innings of 32 here was his highest since a double-century against West Indies at Edgbaston in August and the third-highest score of a day on which the ball dominated. But it would be wrong to interpret that as something of a return to form. He was beaten like a snare drum, survived several huge leg before shouts and an edge between the keeper and third slip. He scored only one from his first 23 deliveries and his first boundary came from his 72nd ball.
A man with a vast number of Test runs currently looks as uncomfortable at the crease as a cow asked to knit a jumper. While skiing. In the dark. Underwater. Backwards.
James Vince is a bit of a concern, too. He plays some lovely strokes, certainly, but there are so many vulnerabilities – so many ways to get him out – that the decision to bat him at No. 3 in the Test series looks a huge risk. Here, with the ball nipping around, he survived several very good leg-before calls before he was beaten on the inside edge as he attempted to drive one that would could have been best negated with a defensive bat. Darren Lehmann, watching from the home dressing room, will have noted all this with interest.
With Joe Root trapped by one that nipped back and Craig Overton falling for a pair on his maiden England appearance – 00verton, the wags were calling him – England were grateful for an eighth-wicket stand of 66 between Jonny Bairstow and Mason Crane. Bairstow’s dominance was no surprise, bringing up his 50 with a six and generally looking in control of things, but Crane was admirably defiant and showed, again, the character that the England management so respect.
Rather deliciously, his innings ended when he was caught Short. Simon Milenko, no more than medium-pace but nipping the ball around and maintaining a nagging line and length, finished with the third five-wicket haul of his career to follow a first-innings half-century.
There was some better news for England. Mark Stoneman, unfussy and assured, made his third half-century of the tour in as many innings, Moeen Ali returned to bowling without reporting any adverse consequences and James Anderson was confirmed as the team’s vice-captain for the series. Or at least until Stokes returns, anyway.
Most of all, Chris Woakes seems to have found his rhythm. In a super opening burst, Woakes claimed 4 for 12 as he exploited the helpful conditions and a tentative batting line-up with hard hands. The record for the lowest first-class score on the ground – Western Australia’s 41 against South Australia in the 1989-90 season – appeared to be in danger for a while.
Woakes’ form could be a vital part of this Ashes series. If he can gain movement and bowl at the pace he managed in his magical series against Pakistan in 2016, he will prove a real threat. If not, England will be hugely over-reliant on Anderson and Stuart Broad. Here he looked sharp and menacing and, with Overton and Anderson nagging away outside off stump like a late tax return, a green-looking CA side were fortunate to take the game into the final day.
But the success of the bowling shouldn’t mask the flaws in the batting. The hyenas are licking their lips.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo