Rain has restricted tourists to just seven sessions of cricket
Stokes scores 42 in ‘glorified middle practice’ against Lions
Stuart Broad labelled next week’s Ashes curtain raiser at the Gabba a lottery given the lack of meaningful time in the middle for both England and Australia during the buildup.
Rain has seen the tourists restricted to just seven sessions of cricket since their advance party landed in the country on 6 November, with the final day of intra-squad action against the Lions on Friday descending into glorified middle practice.
As such no official scorecard resulted from England’s final innings before they begin netting at the Gabba this weekend, although Ben Stokes top-scored with a 56-ball 42, retired, in his first outing with the bat since undergoing a second finger operation.
Rory Burns compiled 37 against an attack that featured Chris Woakes and Mark Wood, but there were troubling failures for Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler – two late arrivals after the T20 World Cup - with both men out twice for just 11 runs apiece in total.
Haseeb Hameed and Joe Root similarly had second attempts following initial failures but with Australia also light on preparation – a proposed three-day affair against Australia A was shelved in favour of training – Broad sees little advantage here.
“It’s a bit of a lottery,” said the 35-year-old. “I don’t think anyone knows how the pitch will play or how batters will settle having not faced a red ball for months.
“It’s going to be a mental game. Mistakes will be made by both sides and it will be a case of whoever can capitalise on the key moments.”
Australia’s approach has drawn scorn from Jeff Thomson, with the former fast bowler seemingly un-fussed by the recent T20 World Cup victory that has denied Mitchell Starc in particular any first-class action at a time when he is being pushed for his spot by Western Australia’s Jhye Richardson.
Thomson told Brisbane’s Courier Mail: “I’ve seen Richardson bowl and I can understand the push to play him but this would not even be an issue if Starc had played a few Sheffield Shield games and taken a few wickets.
“But like the rest of them he’s done nothing and I think it’s crazy. I mean the T20 World Cup is hit and giggle stuff. Honestly, who gives a shit?
“If Australia had not won the T20 World Cup no-one would have cared but compare that to the fallout if Australia loses the Ashes. Heads will roll if that happens. The Ashes just means more.”