What: Australia A v England
When: Tuesday, November 5, 11 p.m. GMT
TV: Sky Sports 2
Australia A: Moises Henriques (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Trent Copeland, Ben Cutting, Alex Doolan, Callum Ferguson, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine
England: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Michael Carberry, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlett
Preview: Building the Puzzle
England’s Ashes preparations will step up another gear on Wednesday when they begin their four-day warm-up match against Australia A in Hobart on what is expected to be a sporting pitch.
Alastair Cook, speaking on the eve of the match, said England were yet to select their XI, but there were two spots still up for grabs for the first Test in Brisbane starting on November 22, per The Telegraph. It’s widely accepted those two spots are the No. 6 batsman and the third fast bowler.
England will be hoping for a more competitive performance than their first match of the tour against a Western Australian Chairman’s XI which, although unlikely ever to produce a result, saw England’s bowlers struggle for wickets, albeit on an unresponsive Perth pitch.
Four days and an imposing opposition XI will give some sense of occasion to the match—the type of which England have generated a habit for winning under Andy Flower. Because while selection and time in the middle are important, England rightly place greater emphasis on actually winning these matches than they used to.
Cook, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are all expected to return to the side following injury or being rested, and thus, the XI from the first match will be considerably shaken up, and a hoard of fringe players will have to make way.
Generally, the second warm-up match of the tour is when England like to ascertain their team for the first Test, so the third and final match can be used to play certain combinations of players together or indeed rest those for whom selection is guaranteed. England’s intentions will, therefore, be clearly signalled by who they select for this match.
The most straightforward selection debate ahead of Brisbane is the position of the third seamer, generally thought to be between Boyd Rankin—who impressed in Perth in the first warm-up—Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett.
The second position is more complicated.
The No. 6 batsman (or indeed, potentially all-rounder), Jonny Bairstow, was the man in possession of the slot for most of the English summer. However, his exclusion from the playing XI in England’s first match of the tour suggests his slide has been considerable, and his role on the tour is as much as a backup wicketkeeper as it is a batsman.
Gary Ballance was given the chance to impress in Perth, but a golden duck will have done his chances no good.
Cook’s back injury, that ruled him out of the first match, gave Michael Carberry, the reserve opener in the squad, a chance to make a claim for selection that he otherwise probably wouldn’t have had. Carberry took his chance well, and his first innings 78 has added an unexpected extra dimension to the debate.
His runs have led some to believe he could, perhaps, slot in at six, or Joe Root, who has failed to convince opening the batting, could fill the slot, while Carberry moves up to open. There’s an outside chance that all-rounder Ben Stokes could take the spot if England feel they are weak on the bowling front, but such a move remains unlikely considering Andy Flower’s proclivity for four bowlers.
The buildup to the match has been surrounded by the usual pre-Ashes verbal jibes, mostly, it must be said, emanating from the Australian side, with Shane Warne, in particular, grabbing headlines for his criticisms of Cook’s captaincy, as discussed in an article by Daniel Brettig of ESPNcricinfo.
Cook was predictably coy in his response in the pre-match press conference, via Brettig, for he knows better than anyone that England do their talking on the pitch, “At the end of the day, it's results that are the most important thing. That's how you are judged as a captain."