Ashes combatants warm up with patchy batting

The Australian cricket team has opened the tour match against the England Lions with three good innings but zero depth in between, while only Alastair Cook can say he did his innings justice in England XI’s total of 290 against Warwickshire.Australia started their second four-day match of the 2009 Ashes tour at the New Road ground in Worcester on a flat, slow pitch in conditions that allowed a decent amount of swing. A big hundred from Mike Hussey (143*) with support from Simon Katich (95) and Mitchell Johnson (47) helped Australia to a total of 331/8 at the close of the first day’s play. No other Australian could score higher than seven runs, though all but Marcus North (1) got runs in the previous match against Sussex at Hove.

The English Lions, a second XI which is equivalent to the Australia A team of the antipodeans, worked professionally in the field without any of their bowlers demanding a place in the first Ashes Test at Cardiff. Spinner Tim Bresnan (3/46) was the pick of the bowlers, Steve Harmison (3/67) and Graham Onions (2/66) were at about the same pace, while Sajid Mahmood (0/74) was punished by Hussey and Johnson in particular.

Most of the pre-match hype at Worcester was around the last bowling spot in the Australian XI, with Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle guaranteed spots and Stuart Clark, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz fighting over the other two. With the pitch being as dull as it is, in contrast to the Cardiff pitch which is expected to take a lot of spin, the Australian selectors may not get a clear idea over the next three days in any case.

Meanwhile, over at Birmingham it was the Alastair Cook show, whose 124 included 21 fours. Cook enjoyed good partnerships with Andrew Strauss (31) and Ravi Bopara (43) with both out to indifferent shots. Bopara, who skied gently to midwicket, is the man slated to replace the recently retired Michael Vaughan at the forefront of the English assault on the Ashes. None of the other English batsmen reached 25, with Pietersen (1) nicking to slips in disappointing fashion. Anderson took the only Warwickshire wicket to fall in the 10 over stint at the end of the day.