- Invitational XI v England XI, Tour match, SCG
Bresnan absence weighs heavy as England gain win
England XI 418 (Trott 84, Cook 81, Root 75, Pietersen 57) and 151 for 3 (Carberry 50) beat CA Invitational XI 304 (Carters 94, Nevill 83, Cowan 51, Finn 5-103, Broad 4-37) and 261 (Finch 59, Rankin 3-46, Finn 3-88) by seven wickets
England will miss Tim Bresnan enormously at the start of the Ashes series and his replacement will be targeted by Australia's batsmen, regardless of who is chosen by the team director, Andy Flower. So says the former Test opener Ed Cowan, who ran his eyes across the tourists' bowling options during England's final warm-up match before the Gabba Test, a seven-wicket victory over an Invitational XI at the SCG.
Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn have all shown hints of their best in the two matches each have been granted ahead of England's arrival in Brisbane, but none have done so with the consistency demanded of a Test match bowler, particularly as one of only four options for the touring captain Alastair Cook. A sandy outfield offered some mitigating circumstances in Sydney, but Rankin and Finn still lost plenty by comparison with a far more precise Stuart Broad.
While Cowan thought England appeared largely ready for Brisbane, he was adamant that Bresnan's absence will be keenly felt until he can return to full fitness, much as it was during Shane Watson's domineering 176 in the final Test of the previous series at The Oval.
Root relaxed about return to No. 6
- Unfussy and uninterested in speculating, England No. 6 Joe Root sounds a lot like England opener Joe Root did during the northern summer.
- However captain Alastair Cook and team director Andy Flower, will be hoping for a different outcome in terms of runs scored and partnerships established, having moved Root down the order and replaced him with the older Michael Carberry.
- "I'm not that egotistical really, I just want to represent England," Root said. "To get the opportunity to do that down the order is a different challenge to last summer but one that I'm really looking forward to.
- "The basics are pretty similar, there's still a guy 22 yards away bowling a ball at you. You just need to make sure you manage the situation well and try to score as many runs as possible.
- "I definitely learned a lot from [opening], I've got a lot of things out of it, and parts of my game I've worked hard on from last summer. Hopefully I can keep improving on those and become a better player for it.
- This week was about getting used to the role again, getting out there and trying to score runs and make sure my game's in good order."
"The only real question mark is who's going to fill that third seamer role," Cowan said. "The top order looks pretty settled, they all look in pretty good touch, but certainly I think that third bowler until Tim Bresnan comes back will probably be the one issue that keeps popping up.
"I thought Boyd bowled beautifully with the old ball yesterday, that spell screamed Test bowler, but that was the only one in the game that really lived up to what they're looking for from him.
"But I'm sure he'll be a very, very different proposition at the Gabba. He bowls a heavy ball, quick enough, but if you continually get too short at the Gabba you'll get murdered. [Rankin and Finn] were probably too short all game.
"I just think Bresnan's a massive player for them. Unsung hero, bowls a huge amount of overs, never really gets hit out of the attack, takes big wickets, and as we saw during the last Ashes series scores some really important runs. That's a huge out and I think Australia will look to exploit that, the third seamer."
The hosts' chances of setting a target of note for Cook's team were scotched by the loss of Peter Nevill and Ryan Carters within two runs of each other on the final morning. From there England were always likely to be pursuing something in the region of 150, enough to provide an afternoon's opportunity to groove the batting further.
However, James Muirhead offered another tantalising glimpse of his considerable spin bowling talents, bowling Cook with sharp turn out of the rough as England's captain tried to cut, then confusing Michael Carberry over a period of time before ending his innings with a skied pull shot and a catch at midwicket. Jonathan Trott should also have fallen to one of Muirhead's leg breaks, advancing down the wicket and edging, only for slip to put the catch down.
At the other end Kevin Pietersen played a brief and skittish innings, eventually bowled by a Chris Tremain delivery that deserved greater respect. Trott and Ian Bell cantered home under the SCG floodlights, though on a pitch now bearing very little resemblance to the one they can expect to greet them at the Gabba.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here