England XI: 318-0 (Cook 154*, Carberry 153*) v Australia A
For the hard-core England cricket fan, the beginning of sleepless, caffeine-fuelled nights has begun…
England’s team selection and batting order, with Michael Carberry moving up to open and Joe Root sliding into the middle order, could ultimately see England solve two problems in one move.
Were England to maintain this strategy in Brisbane, the brittle top order from the home summer—believed to be of concern to the management—would be bolstered by Carberry, a man who has considerable experience opening the batting in county cricket. Meanwhile the troublesome No. 6 position would be filled by Root, who has already had success there and will no doubt be further improved since his harsh but illuminating struggles opening in the home Ashes.
The decision to demote Root for this match makes a return to the top of the order for him in Brisbane unlikely and thus a Test recall for Carberry, the only reserve opener, almost certain. While Gary Ballance has been afforded another chance to impress in this match, it would be very unlike England to give a debut to Ballance as well as play Carberry—a veteran of just one Test—in the same match, especially one of such importance. Ballance’s selection is most probably a case of simply giving the reserve middle-order batsman some time in the middle while Ian Bell takes a rest. The other notable selection was Chris Tremlett's inclusion ahead of Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn.
England’s decision to move Root down the order changes nothing with regards to Nick Compton. While some will have you believe it’s an admission of an error on the management’s part, the only error could be seen to be promoting Root to open so soon. The faults the management saw in Compton still exist—he was dropped not because of Root’s promotion; he was dropped because of his own flaws. That hasn’t changed.
In terms of the cricket itself, there's little that can be said for a day that petered into a relative non-contest between bat and ball after the first session. Only early on did the Australian A bowlers extract any life out of the otherwise placid surface, and some excellent judgement outside off stump by Carberry in particular rode the wave of discontent serenely.
Perhaps the moment of the day came shortly before lunch when Carberry—flourishing back lift and all—skipped down the wicket to slow left-armer Jonathan Holland and plinked the ball over the infield, sending it skipping across the outfield for four. The chains of nervous restraint lay broken at his ankles.
Meanwhile, Cook's back loosened up as the day went on after looking tight at first, and nothing can be more demonstrative of his recovery than six unbeaten hours at the crease.
If Cook and Carberry are to be reunited in Test cricket after three-and-a-half years, it will be one of England’s more intriguing opening pairs. Cook; a privately educated chorister whose entire career has seemed destined to lead to him to captaining England in Test cricket, alongside Carberry a black county veteran, educated at an inner-city state school who had all but given up on a Test recall just as he was picked again.
Ironically Shane Warne suggested England should move Root down the order and open with Carberry, and exactly that appears to be coming to pass. What’s more, Warne’s criticism of Cook’s captaincy appears to have been accepted rather than refuted. So while Warne's excellent cricketing brain is often misrepresented by the foolish and at times blinkered ways he exercises his views, there remains a semblance of truth in a lot of what he says. In a weird way he’s kind of become the conscience of English cricket, saying everything that England probably know is true but fear or find it unnecessary to acknowledge.
To top it off, Carberry has gone on the record as giving Warne credit for turning his career turning around. He’s long retired, but the legend of the wizardry leg-spinner lives on.
On another note, as bleary-eyed England fans stumble through their day at work, as @iamthewrongun pointed out on Twitter: "Televised warm up matches are all that's right with the commercialisation of cricket."
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