Ashes: England ‘below-par’ in warm-up
PUBLISHED: 11:15 17 November 2017
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England admit they were below required standards despite remaining in cruise control against a Cricket Australia XI on day three of their final Ashes warm-up match.
Assistant coach Paul Farbrace acknowledged a “mixed day” containing “soft dismissals”, even though England are on course to beat these opponents for the second time in eight days.
After Middlesex’s Dawid Malan (109) and captain Joe Root (83) extended their fourth-wicket stand to 163, England took a mammoth lead of 265 with a first-innings 515 all out which nonetheless featured a collapse of five wickets for 38 runs.
Home captain Matt Short was on a hat-trick after tail-ender Craig Overton fell first ball for his third successive duck.
The hosts then put on 80 for the first wicket but were 121-3 at stumps, with only six wickets effectively remaining in the absence of the injured Nick Larkin.
Root’s men therefore appear set for a wide-margin win in Townsville to keep confidence high for next week’s first Test.
Even so, Farbrace said: “If we’re honest, it was a bit of a mixed day.
“We feel we’d had two really good previous days, and perhaps we just slipped a fraction from the standards we would have expected.
“We’ve got ourselves in a good position in the game. But in terms of going into next week’s match, perhaps we’ve not quite been as good as we could have been.
“It’s probably quite a good timely reminder, with the Test starting next week, that we’ve got to be fully focused every day and every session... on our game all the time.”
England have made a habit of collapses, and during Friday’s example Moeen Ali made only five in what seems sure to be his only innings before the Test series following his return from a side injury.
“Perhaps there were one or two soft dismissals, but the lads are not machines, they are human beings and do make mistakes,” added Farbrace, who is not too concerned about Moeen’s low score.
“He got out, but I think it’ll make him even more determined come next Thursday”
As for Malan and the in-form Mark Stoneman, he said: “I think both have shown right from the start that they’ve adapted to conditions and are quite well suited to them.
“Malan found England a little bit of a struggle (last) summer, ball nipping around a little bit. But here, with the ball bouncing and coming on to the bat, he looks very much at home.”
Essex’s Alastair Cook was off the field during the final session, but Farbrace indicated his absence had more to do with the need to give Jake Ball a piece of the action again as a substitute fielder than the former captain’s minor illness.
Ball has made a quick recovery from his ankle injury and Farbrace believes he could easily still challenge Overton for the final seamer’s spot at the Gabba.
“We wanted Jake Ball to get some time in the field, basically, that was the bottom line,” he said.
“So we said to the umpires that (Cook) has a slightly upset stomach, which he has, but it meant ‘Bally’ could get on the field.
“If he’s going to be available to play next week, then he needs to spend that time on the field.
“He’s going to bowl 15 overs in the nets (on Saturday), and therefore gives himself a great chance of being selected.”