- Essex v England, LV= Challenge Match, Chelmsford, 1st day
Gooch refuses to excuse poor batting
Graham Gooch, the England batting coach, made no excuses for an underwhelming performance by England's top-order in the Ashes warm-up match against Essex at Chelmsford.
None of the England top seven were able to register a half-century as three Essex bowlers with only eight wickets between them this season reduced England to 212 for 7. An eighth-wicket stand of 116 between Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann rescued them but Gooch bluntly asserted that England "had to do better" if they were to win the Ashes.
However, he refuted any suggestion that England might be struggling to adapt to long-form, red-ball cricket after several weeks of limited-overs games or that the low-key nature of this match - albeit played in front of a full-house crowd of 6,500 at Chelmsford - might have contributed to any lack of intensity in the performance.
"Modern-day players have to switch between three formats now," Gooch said. "I wouldn't make excuses for that: it is something you have to handle. Players have to make the adjustments. I don't make any excuses for them and I don't think any of our players would want to use that as an excuse. Our guys got in and they got out. They won't be happy with that and next time they get a chance they have got to do a better job.
"It is an important game. The pre-Test games in Australia last time round served us well. They got us into the right frame of mind and the right attitude to win the Ashes. It's not just another game; it's not just a warm-up game: it's the only game that matters. And tomorrow morning, it will be the only game that matters, too.
"We would have liked the top-order to spend more time at the crease and to capitalise on their starts. You want your main batsmen to get into a bit of rhythm and to get their games in order. We're building to peak next week and we would have liked a bit more from some of those guys.
"You have to bat long. There's no secret to it. Once you get in you have to capitalise on that and, come the Test series, we have to put big totals on the board if we get starts. The job of the batters is to build a platform and create an opportunity for the bowlers to win the match. That's their job and they know that it is their job.
"Today wasn't a disaster, but some of the guys would have wanted to spend more time out there."
Gooch did reserve warm praise for Joe Root, however. Root looks set to open in the first Investec Test of the Ashes series after England omitted Nick Compton and, in the eyes of Gooch, there is no reason why Root should not prove a success.
"Joe is a natural opener," Gooch said. "The selectors want to look at Joe and give themselves an option. Personally I don't see any reason why Joe won't make a success if he bats at the top of the order or in the middle-order. He is a consummate player as a young man already. He has things to work on and he has to improve - like every player - but he started out his career opening the batting and he has had a lot of success there this season with Yorkshire.
"I can't see any reason he won't make a success if he is given the opportunity of opening in the first Test at Trent Bridge. It's not a case of making an adjustment; he's an opener anyway."
If few of the England players will look back at the day with fond memories, it was a much better day for Tom Craddock. The 23-year-old legspinner went into the game without a first-class wicket this season and, in his first spell was confronted by Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen on a surface his captain, Ravi Bopara, described as "the best for a few years" at Chelmsford.
But Craddock, who broke into first-class cricket through the MCCU scheme and the Unicorns programme, responded by dismissing both of them and then adding the wicket of Matt Prior.
"When Ravi threw me the ball, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell were standing there," he said. "I just wanted to land a few and maybe join a few dots together, but taking three is surreal.
"I've watched Kevin for a long time and I know full well he will happily take down spinners. I thought I'd bowl my areas and, if he took me down a couple of times, I'd put the men back accordingly, but happily enough he gave me a caught-and-bowled chance. It's the best day of my career; no doubts."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo