Ben Stokes stars with the bat as England complete rain-wrecked Ashes match preparation in Brisbane

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Stokes made an unbeaten 56-ball 42 in his first innings since July to top score as England’s rain-ruined Ashes match practice concluded in decidedly uncompetitive fashion in Brisbane.

Both sides will be undercooked when the series begins at the Gabba on Wednesday after a remarkably low-key build-up to the series, due to poor weather, the T20 World Cup, and scandals in both English and Australian cricket.

England managed just 29 overs in their first five days of intra-squad matches with the Lions due to rain, but have lost no cricket over the last two days. England’s expectations had plummeted so low that Stuart Broad said it was a “bonus” that they had played any cricket at all.

On Thursday, the Lions batted and England bowled, before the roles were reversed on Friday. While this proved a valuable exercise for Stokes and Rory Burns, who also retired not out (for 37 off 113 balls), the rest of England’s batters fell cheaply, with some returning to the crease for a second bite.

Both Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler were dismissed twice for just 11 runs, having only recently emerged from quarantine after the T20 World Cup. At the first attempt, Bairstow fell first ball and Buttler second.

While Buttler is assured of his place in the side, Bairstow is competing with Ollie Pope to bat at No6 at the Gabba. England are expected to plump for Bairstow’s experience of the Ashes down under, but his double failure may prompt a rethink.

Haseeb Hameed (7) was bowled by Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan (9) by Mark Wood, who bowled with real pace. Captain Joe Root (8) was one of two wickets for his Yorkshire team-mate Matt Fisher, but returned for a second bat late in the day.

With players batting twice and swapping teams, the match had descended into little more than middle practice, but England will have been grateful for any cricket they could get after all that rain.

Nevertheless, having picked up two wickets on Thursday, Stokes’ form is encouraging, given his limited opportunity. He took an indefinite break from cricket in July to manage his mental health and a finger injury, before returning for this tour. He batted aggressively, striking six boundaries before retiring.

“He played nicely,” said Burns. “It was a typical Stokesy innings, very fluent, the scoreboard was always ticking and he was seeing them well I thought.”

James Anderson was a beneficiary of the slightly farcical nature of the action, as he swapped teams to pick up two wickets in two balls, having only bowled eight overs on Thursday.

Burns’ form is also encouraging. On his first Ashes tour, only he and Hameed got a bat in the single session of action last week, and he is yet to be dismissed.

“I’m feeling ok,” said the opener. “I haven’t been dismissed yet, which is quite a nice thing, long may that continue. But I’m feeling alright.”

Australia’s XI for the First Test is taking shape. On Thursday, it was announced that Alex Carey would take the gloves in place of Tim Paine, who resigned tearfully as captain last month, while the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that Travis Head would beat Usman Khawaja to a spot at No5 and Mitchell Starc will pip Jhye Richardson to a place in the seam attack alongside Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Australia – who have not played a Test since January, when they lost to an undermanned India team – have had to make do with uncompetitive middle practice too. England quick Broad believes every player will be physically underprepared given the build-up.

“I don’t think any cricketer leading into Wednesday can honestly say they are going to be fully ready physically,” he said. “You can be fully switched on mentally, but every player is going to be finding their way into that game. That’s where you have to fall back on previous experience, and that’s where the mental game will be so important.”

Read More

England confident they can ‘do something special’ and upset Ashes favourites Australia despite limited warm-up

Ashes 2021 tour diary: Stuart Broad lifts England mood with #NoUmbrellaWalk; Hobart favourite for Fifth Test

Michael Vaughan: Ashes trip delayed after ex-England captain tests positive for Covid-19

Ben Stokes takes two wickets on England return as Brisbane weather finally allows meaningful Ashes preparation

Alex Carey to make Test debut after replacing Tim Paine in Australia’s Ashes squad

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting