England’s Bowlers Toil in Final Warm-up Game

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England's paceman Stuart Broad (L) bowls to Cricket Australia XI's batsman Matthew Short on the fourth and final day of their four-day Ashes tour match at the Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

England’s bowlers were left looking impotent in the absence of James Anderson as Cricket Australia XI easily batted out the final day of their warm-up game in Townsville. Only one wicket fell as 18-year-old Jason Sangha and 22-year-old Matthew Short hit maiden first-class centuries to secure a creditable draw. Mason Crane took the only wicket as Broad and Overton failed to break through the fledgeling partnership of Sangha and Short. The England management team will feel that the final bowling selection for the Gabba is vital if they are to bowl out the new Australian team twice.
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Woakes’s Six Appeal

Despite a spirited opening partnership of 66, Chris Woakes was the chief wicket-taker with a wonderful 6-57. Taking wickets at regular intervals, the England bowling unit appeared to not be missing Jimmy Anderson. Anderson was rested for the match and Moeen Ali featured after his recent injury woes. Broad chipped in with 2-29 whilst Overton’s 2-32 helped limit the home side to 250 all out. Overton will be aware that it’s a straight shootout with Jake Ball for the final bowling spot.
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Batting Finally Fires

Alastair Cook’s pressure was the microcosm of the team in general; runs on the board is the only currency that is worth anything in the Ashes. Cook finally banked some, not as many as he would have liked, but a solid 70 will be useful. His partner, Mark Stoneman, has asserted himself on the tour and his 111 has answered some of the questions posed around his temperament and ability. Captain Joe Root also scored moral boosting runs whilst Dawid Malan followed Stoneman’s lead with a question answering, or at least deferring, 109. The only slight concern for England was the loss of 5 wickets for just 38 runs on a slow, flat wicket.

Rear-guard action thwarts England

Going into the last day of play, England’s bowlers had designs on wrapping up the game with an innings victory. Sangha and Short’s 263 run partnership ended all hopes of such a victory and gave England a good workout in the field. Only Mason Crane took a wicket whilst the seam attack ended the innings without a wicket. Broad and Woakes weren’t overused and Overton may find himself surplus to requirements for the Gabba. Ball’s rehabilitation seems to keep him on track. He spent some of the afternoon bowling in the nets with Anderson before fielding as a substitute for a while.

It would be foolish to read masses into the game but there are assertions to be addressed. England’s bowlers appear reliant on their ability to shape the ball. Outside of the new ball’s efficiency, England will be hoping for conditions conducive to reverse swing or it could be more long days in the field. Moeen Ali may need to perform well with both bat and ball should that occur.
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England’s top order must deliver whilst under pressure from the new ball attack. Mitchell Starc is clearly the most destructive bowler on both sides and Stoneman, in particular, will have to carry his form into the Test arena. Exposing Vince early in the innings, should he get the number three job, will also be a big ask. If England are two wickets down with not too many runs on the board and Root is batting, Australia’s four-man bowling attack won’t be a concern for the home side. The Ashes series may not have the potential for quality of, say, 2005 but no less tension will be on display.

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