England wrap up tour victory but ‘rusty’ Alastair Cook a concern before Ashes

A minor hamstring injury kept him out of Sylhet Sixers’ most recent game in the Bangladesh Premier League.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “England wrap up tour victory but ‘rusty’ Alastair Cook a concern before Ashes” was written by Will Macpherson at the Adelaide Oval, for The Observer on Saturday 11th November 2017 10.30 UTC

It took England 30 minutes to take the last three Cricket Australia XI wickets, bowling them out for 75 and completing an emphatic 192-run win. It was all so simple that those who had not played came out for middle practice and those who had did fitness drills.

The wickets had been shared by Chris Woakes (four), James Anderson and Craig Overton (three each) in a super showing from the bowlers, but the batting performance is of great concern.

Ryan Harris, the CA XI coach and a man who knows a little about outthinking Englishmen, saw a vulnerable top order and offered the generous assessment that Alastair Cook, on whom so much surely rests, is looking a bit rusty.

Harris has been taking notes and he heads to Brisbane to join up with Australia’s plotting pacemen, while Darren Lehmann will have liked what he saw on a flying Friday visit – England welcomed him with a collapse of seven for 45. Australia are being smart and thorough, using plenty of coaches who know England well (such as Chris Rogers here) and seeing the tour games as personal reconnaissance as the tourists try to acclimatise.

“Their batting is vulnerable, absolutely, especially with no Stokes at six,” Harris said. “But it depends on how our boys bowl at them. If we’re loose and wide then we won’t have them in any trouble. We’ve got some good intel and knowledge on what we want to do and I’ll pass that on to our bowlers. That’s why we play these games, to get intel on them. ‘Boof’ [Lehmann] was here and saw them bat yesterday and I’ll take as much back to the guys in Brisbane as I can. David Saker [the bowling coach] was here, too, so it’s all good going into a big series.”

Those still standing might be in the groove, but this has been the game that revealed the extent of England’s fast-bowling injury epidemic. Steven Finn flew home on day one, Jake Ball pulled up on day two, Tom Curran arrived on day three and George Garton was called for on day four. Garton is essentially coming on work experience, brought out early for the Lions tour, to which he will return promptly. He got the nod because Tom Helm (hamstring) and Mark Wood (heel) are not considered quite fit.

There have been calls for Liam Plunkett’s selection but, sure enough, he has been struck down, too. A minor hamstring injury kept him out of Sylhet Sixers’ most recent game in the Bangladesh Premier League.

Overton bowled well here and was a menace again on the final morning. He had a fine lbw shout turned down against Matt Short with the first ball of the day, but bowled him five balls later. Dan Fallins became the second player on this tour he has pinned with his accurate short ball, too; it was a relief to see the batsman steady himself to continue soon after being hit on the StemGuard.

James Anderson finished the job. He pinned Gurinder Sandhu lbw and after it had taken 25 minutes for the day’s first run to be scored Fallins was caught at first slip, swishing. All three seamers, particularly in Ball’s absence, fired on as sluggish a pitch as Australia – intentionally or not – can offer. The drop-in was drab and the outfield slow; Adelaide Oval on Sunday plays host to a game of international rules, a hybrid of Australian Rules and Gaelic Football.

Now England must decide which standing bowlers to burden in Townsville, where they face the same opposition but are crossing fingers for a pitch more reflective of the challenges that lie ahead.

Anderson will not play, Stuart Broad will and Woakes and Overton say they want to. Moeen Ali is bowling again but Ball is a doubt (he is expected to be fit in a week), and surely must be for Brisbane, given he will reach the first Test with just a day’s bowling under his belt.

All of which makes Overton a very likely starter at the Gabba. England want plenty more from his batting – the only way is up from his pair here – but his bowling improves by the spell.

“I’ve still got a bit of work to do,” he said. “You’re never quite sure, you just keep on doing your thing and try not to worry about it too much. If you get a call-up happy days, if not I will be supporting the team as much as possible. It’s just making sure I bowl the best I can when I get a chance and hopefully that will be good enough. I’m confident it will be so it’s just a case of taking my chance when it comes.”

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