Authors: Rio Sports
England have given the clearest indication yet of how they plan to line up in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba next week by selecting the uncapped fast bowler Craig Overton for their final warm-up fixture, against Cricket Australia XI in Townsville from Wednesday.
Overton and Chris Woakes both expressed a desire to play in the game and their selection, ahead of the untried Tom Curran, suggests that they will join James Anderson – who sits out this match with a bug – and Stuart Broad in a four-man pace attack. Moeen Ali makes his return from injury, but the leg-spinner Mason Crane retains his place in the side, which features the same top six (all but ruling out Gary Ballance’s hopes of playing in Brisbane) as England played in Adelaide.
Even with Jake Ball injured – he has shed his moon-boot and hopes to run fully on Wednesday, but is surely a doubt for the first Test – England spurned the opportunity to take a look at Curran, instead choosing to give Overton, who bowled impressively in the victory in Adelaide, as much cricket as possible before the first Test. Anderson for Crane is set to be the only change from the Test match.
“Craig [Overton]’s been brilliant,” said captain Joe Root. “He’s come in on this tour, thrown himself into every game and every opportunity whenever he has got the ball. He’s stood up and put his hand up to be selected, and that’s what you want. All the guys who haven’t played before have shown a lot of promise, and gone about things the right way in practice and in the games too.”
The wicket in Townsville, where England’s practice was curtailed by rain on Tuesday, is expected to be another slow surface – hardly replicating conditions in Brisbane – and Root hopes the tourists’ batsmen will take the chance to score centuries and stem their flow of collapses. He says the batsmen have “made a conscious effort to try and rectify” their problem of losing wickets in clusters.
“I still think that’s one of the things we want to get out of this game: guys going on and making big hundreds,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to have to have throughout the five Tests. Getting into good habits is always a good thing and that’s how we have to approach it.”
Root believes England are “a bit wiser” than they were before the whitewash of 2013/14, when they were “caught out” by Australia’s intimidatory tactics.
“There’s always talk,” he said. “Last time that caught us out, and I think we are a bit wiser this time. It’s making sure we are absolutely prepared for any scenario out there, and absolutely ready for that first game, whatever they do throw at us.
“We expect it to be hostile, we expect it to be a very loud and rowdy atmosphere at the Gabba. Hopefully we are in a good place and ready for that, because I think we have got our heads around what to expect.
“I’ve heard a lot of chat about targeting me in particular. From our point of view, we’ll be targeting every single one of them – we won’t be singling anyone out. It’s what it’s about. You want that competitive element to it. And those little in-house rivalries.
“It should be a great series. They’ve got some great players within their squad. And good characters, as well.”
As the two teams fine-tune their own preparations, the umpires have been named for the first Test. Aleem Dar, who is not particularly fondly remembered in Australia for failing to give Stuart Broad out at Trent Bridge in 2013, is joined by South Africa’s Marais Erasmus.
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