Home Sports England's Ashes preparations suffer another huge setback in Australia

England's Ashes preparations suffer another huge setback in Australia

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England will head into the Ashes without any first-class preparation and might not get any meaningful action at all this week due to the horrific weather forecast in Queensland.

In contrast to the triumphant tour of 2010-11 when coach Andy Flower prioritised building momentum into the main event with emphatic wins over Western Australia and Australia A in an unbeaten warm-up, Joe Root’s team are going to have to be creative with what little time remains ahead of taking on Australia at the Gabba from next Wednesday.

Heavy rain is scheduled to fall from Tuesday, the start of a four-day fixture between England and England Lions at Ian Healy Oval.

England will head into the Ashes without any first-class preparation because of bad weather

England will head into the Ashes without any first-class preparation because of bad weather

Heavy rain is expected from Tuesday, the start of a match between England and England Lions

Heavy rain is expected from Tuesday, the start of a match between England and England Lions

The England Lions game will not be under first-class regulations to allow World Cup players just out of quarantine the freedom to join the contest late or play managed roles

The England Lions game will not be under first-class regulations to allow World Cup players just out of quarantine the freedom to join the contest late or play managed roles

The team management opted not to play it under first-class regulations to allow the five World Cup players only just out of quarantine the freedom to either join the contest late or play managed roles.

Now that flexibility is to be extended further due to the likelihood of the match following the way of last week’s three-day game which was decimated by downpours. 

With reduced playing time inevitable, one option being explored is to add a fifth day, although a clash with local grade cricket on Saturday might scupper that. England are due to move to the Gabba nets from Sunday but are also sourcing alternative weekend venues for centre-wicket practice and indoor facilities as a back-up.

‘It won’t be a first-class fixture, but it will be played as close to the intensity of a first-class game as possible. Ideally, we want that intensity to be as high as we can close to the Test matches,’ Root said.

‘The quality of the players will be there from both teams and, because of the lack of preparation that we’ve had in that previous three-day game, having that extra bit of flexibility to make sure we can get as many guys as possible what they need throughout these four days is going to be crucial.

Heavy rain in Queensland saw last week's three-day game decimated by heavy downpours

Heavy rain in Queensland saw last week’s three-day game decimated by heavy downpours

‘But in terms of how we’ll approach it as two teams, there’s a lot of people that will want to prove things and will want to show that they deserve an opportunity for that first Test match. 

‘So, I expect the standards to be very high, and I expect it to be very competitive. And so it should be. This is a really good chance for us to get ahead of things, maybe get ahead of Australia in terms of preparation and game-time ahead of the series, and it would be silly for us to just cosy our way through the four days. It has to be good, hard proper cricket that we’ll benefit from.’

Australia have scrapped plans to play their own intra-squad match up the road at Redlands from Wednesday due to a combination of the adverse conditions and the fact that 11 of their World-Cup winning players have just exited quarantine and could do with a break apart from each other.

Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, two of England’s Twenty20 squad, will play for the England Lions to maximise opportunities for those in contention to face the Australians next week.

Of the unusual build-up, Root added: ‘We’ve done a lot of brilliant planning in the last couple of years, about mentally, how we can be ready, and what’s going to work on different surfaces and different grounds and having a really good idea of how we’re going to break down their team.

Australia, coached by Justin Langer (above), scrapped plans for their own intra-squad game

Australia, coached by Justin Langer (above), scrapped plans for their own intra-squad game

‘It might be that, in the next couple of days, we get some similar weather, and we don’t get the time out there in the middle. But it’s important that – whether you play those games in your mind a little bit more, visualise a little bit more – you find different ways of making sure that when that first ball comes down at the Gabba, we’re in the best place possible to come out on top.’

Ben Stokes remains on course to end his eight-month Test absence, despite a lack of competitive bowling and a recent scare when he believed he had broken his forearm batting in the nets.

‘It was a bit of a concern. The wickets, because of the weather, have been slightly spicy and guys have really had to get stuck in. There have been a few little knocks here and there,’ Root said.

‘To see Ben get hit like that was obviously a scary moment. We all know how crucial he is within our squad, but he seems to have come through it pretty well.’

Meanwhile, with most of the touring group’s families intending to join the trip already in tow – it is believed only three are scheduled to arrive for Christmas – Australia’s changing Covid rules should provide minimal disruption to plans.

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