While England awaited the results of Jake Ball’s scan - the verdict on his right ankle is due on Saturday morning - Chris Woakes reduced the CA XI to 25 for seven, within spitting distance of the lowest first-class total ever recorded at the Adelaide Oval, 41.
“He (Woakes) has got better and better every spell he’s bowled,” said James Anderson, officially appointed England’s vice-captain. Anderson could have said the same of Craig Overton after he too participated in the disintegration of the home side, who were first-class in name alone. No gradual improvement was evident however in England’s batsmen, who staged an embarrassing collapse of four wickets for only three runs and, unlike the home side, England did not bat in the dark.
“It’s not ideal, is it?” Anderson said about England’s collapse. “That’s something we’ve got to look at - probably have a chat about it after the game as to why it happened and what we could do differently to stop it happening again.”
At least Ball was not missed when England set the home side a target of 268. The floodlights were on, the ball was pink, the seam movement just enough to catch the edge, and all but one of the batsmen were novices, unwanted by the six Sheffield Shield sides. “Potentially it seams a little bit more as the dew comes down (but) there's not a lot of difference,” Anderson said. “It's just getting used to that light and the pink ball.”
As part of England’s collapse Woakes had got out cheaply pushing tentatively forward at a ball of fullish length, and he gave the CA XI large doses of the same medicine. The captain Tim Paine, who won four Test caps as a wicketkeeper, is the only batsman of first-class note in a squad that England have to face again in the third and last warm-up on Wednesday in Townsville. While CA stands for Cricket Australia, in this instance it could be the Cadets Anonymous XI, or Complete Also-rans. The attitude of Cricket Australia towards putting up strong opposition for England before the Test series can be deduced from their hashtag #BeatEngland.
Bairstow engineered the recovery from 125 for seven, helped by a plucky little knock from Mason Crane. Off the last ball of an over, Bairstow’s expertise in finding a gap to keep the strike was superlative, yet he was not over-protective of Crane. Bairstow pulled a couple of sixes and, with the aid of a first-innings lead of 60, restored England’s self-respect.
Otherwise only Mark Stoneman batted well, making his third consecutive 50. As Alastair Cook has been so scratchy, Stoneman has appeared to be on his fourth Ashes tour, Cook on his first. To compare him with Cook’s 11 other Test opening partners, Stoneman is a mix of Michael Carberry and Andrew Strauss - judging the ball outside off-stump and leaving it with minimal movement like Carberry, and favouring the square-cut like Strauss.
If any concerns about Stoneman linger, one would be that he has not yet been subjected to more than the odd bouncer, the second that there will be more inherent danger in his favourite back-cut in Australia than in England. It got him out when he chopped on a ball too close. Overall though Stoneman knows his game, whether in England or Australia where he has spent seven winters, and goes about it busily or acquisitively.
Cook at least spent 30 overs in grounding out his 32, then wickets tumbled for the rest of England’s innings and the day. Dawid Malan, reluctant to get forward, edged a ball angled across him; James Vince could have read the game-situation more astutely, as the bowlers were getting on top in poor light, but preferred an expansive on-drive. Overton recorded a pair before bowling a fuller length than hitherto, but on this occasion one England tailender reached double figures.