Room-mates get Eng­land off to pos­i­tive start on tour

Stone­man and Vince quick to pu­n­ish lowly op­po­si­tion But Root and Cook de­part cheaply in open­ing match

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - Scyld Berry CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Perth

Pair­ing Mark Stone­man and James Vince in a two-bed­room apart­ment for the first stage of this Ashes tour was a fine idea by Eng­land’s man­age­ment. The pair were not fa­mil­iar with each other, com­ing from op­po­site ends of Eng­land, but they shared a part­ner­ship of 153 in the open­ing two-day match as the ba­sis of an en­cour­ag­ing to­tal of 349 for six.

Two fac­tors, how­ever, are not ap­par­ent in the score­card. One is that the av­er­age age of the West­ern Aus­tralia XI is 22, and that with a cap­tain aged 30, Nathan Coul­ter-Nile. The age is so low be­cause West­ern Aus­tralia’s first XI are play­ing this weekend against New South Wales in Syd­ney, al­though not at the Test ground where the turf is be­ing re­laid. So, Eng­land’s first op­po­nents are sec­ond XI play­ers, one as young as 18. For an open­ing two-day tour match such op­po­si­tion is ad­e­quate. Eng­land had enough on their plate ad­just­ing to the ex­tra bounce in­her­ent in Aus­tralia’s harder pitches, and to the sun­shine – not so much the heat, which pushed 86F (30C) – but the burn­ing na­ture of the sun, so that Jonny Bairstow left no skin un­cov­ered apart from his face.

How­ever, the op­po­si­tion lined up to play Eng­land in their last two warm-up games – fringe first-class play­ers, or re­serves, while the six states play each other in the Sh­effield Shield – will not be of suf­fi­ciently de­mand­ing stan­dard.

The sec­ond fac­tor in­vis­i­ble in the score­card is that WA’s cadets dropped five catches af­ter Joe Root had de­cided to bat, leav­ing the sec­ond day for bowl­ing. Vince was dropped three times in scor­ing 82, Stone­man once in mak­ing 85 and Gary Bal­lance once in his half cen­tury. Most chances flew to slip or gully, and when Eng­land bowl to­day they need their slip-field­ers to set the right trend quickly. Eng­land have of­ten taken a month or more on past Ashes tours to ad­just to the ball fly­ing faster, but this time they have only 10 days’ play be­fore the first Test.

Stone­man’s in­nings was more safe and solid than that of Vince, who spe­cialised in putting the bad balls away with an al­most ma­jes­tic flourish, es­pe­cially when he cover-drove or stood tall to cut. And while the cadets bowled plenty of good balls, they con­stantly served up bad ones, so no bats­man was sub­jected to the sort of re­lent­less pres­sure that will com­mence in Bris­bane on Nov 23. “They faced a lot of bowl­ing which they wouldn’t in Test cricket, but time in the mid­dle is time in the mid­dle,” said Coul­ter-Nile.

Stone­man said he went through his pro­cesses, try­ing to “get through the first 20 or 30 balls” un­til he found his rhythm. He favoured the cut, or “back­cut” as they like to call it here, which was his strength when it came to pick­ing up bound­aries, and his weak­ness when he was dropped at gully.

“You’ve got to be aware when traps might be set,” said Stone­man, “but I’ll still back my­self to try to find the gap and it’s a pro­duc­tive shot for my­self so I’ve got to stick to my strengths as much as pos­si­ble.” He was caught at sec­ond slip when he tried to cover­drive a widish ball slanted across him, while Vince clipped to for­ward square­leg. Both were frus­trated not to go on and make the cen­tury that was there for the tak­ing other than when Coul­terNile was bowl­ing.

If not too much should be read into the suc­cesses of Stone­man and Vince, the same ap­plies to the fail­ures of Root and Alas­tair Cook. Root was given out, caught be­hind, off a de­liv­ery which seemed to brush noth­ing more than his thigh pad.

Cook pushed at the sec­ond ball of his fourth tour of Aus­tralia, an­gled across him by Coul­ter-Nile, and was caught be­hind; he could have left it on the ba­sis of its line or its length, and prob­a­bly would have but for jet lag. “Played it when he prob­a­bly shouldn’t have and nicked it,” as Coul­ter-Nile sum­marised.

Com­ing to­gether at the hint of a wob­ble, Bal­lance and Dawid Malan made half-cen­turies be­fore they had to re­tire – out, not hurt – to give Bairstow and Chris Woakes a go.

Malan was dis­tinctly the more as­sured of the two left-han­ders, get­ting his hands higher to deal with the short ball and us­ing his feet to the spin­ners more. But Bal­lance, like the tor­toise catch­ing up the hare, also reached 50 af­ter a sticky start, when he fended a bouncer from Coul­ter-Nile away from his face with his gloves and edged a half-for­ward push to sec­ond slip.

In the three si­mul­ta­ne­ous Sh­effield Shield matches Aus­tralia’s open­ing bats­men, David Warner and Matt Ren­shaw, both failed, but their cap­tain, Steve Smith, came good with 76 for New South Wales against West­ern Aus­tralia’s first XI. It would not have dam­aged the prospects of Hil­ton Cartwright, who seems likely to bat at No 6, that he dis­missed Smith with his part­time medium-pace. An­other sig­nif­i­cant in­nings was Peter Nevill’s un­beaten 32, also for New South Wales. Nevill, who kept wicket neatly for Aus­tralia un­til he was dropped for lack of runs, is pre­dicted to re­gain his place at the ex­pense of Matthew Wade, who has scored one 50 in his past 11 Tests.

The one re­main­ing doubt is whether Ren­shaw will re­tain the opener’s spot if he con­tin­ues his lean run; if so, the 34-year-old left-han­der Shaun Marsh, said to have ma­tured af­ter the birth of his first child and to be bat­ting bet­ter than ever be­fore, would re­gain his place. Like the other West­ern Aus­tralians, Marsh was away in Syd­ney.

A cut above: Mark Stone­man works the ball to the leg side on his way to mak­ing 85 against a youth­ful West­ern Aus­tralia XI at the Waca

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