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Englishmen take plenty from warm-up match

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Perth:England ticked all the right boxes with a much-improved performance in the drawn tour match against Western Australia at the WACA Ground.

The two-day match finished here Sunday and although they were only playing a WA side missing all its Test stars, it was nonetheless an encouraging couple of days for the tourists at the venue where the third Ashes Test starts on Thursday.

In reply to WA's 8-322 (declared), England cruised to 5-356 at stumps on the second day.

Key batsmen Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook ran into form on Sunday, while bowlers James Anderson, Sajid Mahmood, Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar all impressed during the WA innings to give the English selectors plenty to ponder in the next few days.

Strauss, the acting captain, said it was a beneficial outing for the English.

"The wicket was nice and flat and both Cookie and I appreciated having some length of time out in the middle," he said.

"It's a practice match and the best way to get practice out of these matches is to go out and get runs and hopefully we'll take that into the Test match next week.

"The other beneficial thing from our point of view is getting a look at the WACA as well."

Strauss said Harmison had a taken a step forward after his woes in the first two Tests.

"He's coming right ... Harmy has all the attributes to bowl very well in Australia," Strauss said.

"Last week wasn't a typical Australian wicket I wouldn't have thought.

"But the wickets coming up might have a little bit more pace and bounce in them and if they do have pace and bounce then there's not many in the world you'd want to face less than Steve Harmison."

Strauss added it was the best he had seen Anderson bowl.

"He swung it late, and he bowled very few bad balls," he said.

"He's had a tough time in those few tests but this wicket suited his style of bowling better and he got some useful rhythm."

However, he warned against reading too much into his preference for Panesar over Ashley Giles at the bowling crease for most of Saturday, noting it was just a matter of giving the former a "good bowl".

The only downside for the tourists was the continued poor form with the bat of incumbent wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, who fell for a golden duck batting at No.3.

Jones, who didn't take the gloves in the WA innings, made just 63 runs in the first two Tests at 15.75 and is without a half-century in his last 14 Test innings.

With rival Chris Read making 59 not out and claiming three catches behind the stumps, including a mercurial effort diving one-handed to his left, Jones is under pressure to retain his spot for the Perth Test.

Down 2-0 in their Ashes defence, it was a morale boosting match for the English.

Strauss (88) and Cook (106 retired) enjoyed the chance for some extended time in the middle, putting on 183 for the first wicket.

Neither Cook or Strauss made a significant score in the first two Tests, but they looked in good touch from the outset and were rarely troubled by the WA bowlers.

Earlier, Anderson swung the ball appreciably and finished with 3-53 in a highly impressive performance that revived his chances of retaining his spot for the third Test, while fellow paceman Mahmood also pressed his Test claims with 2-67.

Harmison bowled much better than his figures of 1-99 indicated, while Panesar pressed his claims for selection for the Perth Test by gaining plenty of turn and bounce in taking 1-69.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was playing for England and although he fielded all day on Saturday, he elected not to bat on Sunday, when the practice match ended in a draw.

AFP

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