Ruthless England roll on to Brisbane
England completed their Ashes preparations in fine style by administering a 10-wicket mauling on Australia A in their final warm-up match.
The tourists put the finishing touches to a mightily impressive display shortly after tea on the final day in Hobart as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook performed the formality of chasing nine for victory.
However, it was the bowlers - specifically, Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar - who were the key figures today in England’s march to a second win in three tour games.
Tremlett brought an emphatic end to Australia A’s morning resistance with three wickets in eight balls, and Panesar, having gone some 44 overs without success, earned belated reward for his perseverance by running through the tail.
His three victims came in the space of 11 deliveries and ensured Australia A managed no more than 301, of which Phil Hughes made 81 and captain Cameron White a valiant 111.
Only a late rally from Clint McKay, and the tea interval - for some unfathomable reason taken early despite England being just two shots away from victory - delayed the inevitable.
In wrapping up victory with a sweetly-timed four through midwicket, captain Andrew Strauss - on the day Australia announced their reduced squad for the first Test in Brisbane - delivered the timeliest of reminders that this England side are a force to be reckoned with.
It is hard to see how this contest could have gone any better for them, especially given that they rested their four frontline bowlers.
If Tremlett and Panesar took the plaudits today - they finished with 3-67 and 3-63 respectively, giving Tremlett 7-121 in the match to further underline his Test credentials - Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad also enhanced their reputations to the Australian audience on a pitch which offered little in the way of lateral movement after the first day.
All the batsmen bar Strauss and Kevin Pietersen spent useful time at the crease - Ian Bell most memorably in the form of an immaculate 192 - and the players on duty here will join James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann in Queensland with confidence soaring.
England’s bowling attack for the Gabba may well be decided but, in removing Hughes, Tim Paine and Steven Smith during a superb spell of disciplined yet aggressive fast bowling, Tremlett underlined the positive impression he made in the first innings.
Resuming this morning on 128 for three - trailing by 165 - White and Hughes extended their fourth-wicket alliance - worth 44 overnight - to 101 before Tremlett broke through.
Though White enjoyed the odd slice of luck, particularly against the accurate Bresnan - he edged the first ball of the day past slip, was fortunate to see a bat-pad chance narrowly avoid short-leg and miscued Panesar over mid-on - both batsmen demonstrated admirable resilience on a pitch which, though generally true, showed increasingly pronounced vagaries in bounce.
White, who began the day on 22, did the bulk of the scoring, punching Tremlett wide of mid-on to bring up a 68-ball half-century, but a cover-drive hinted that Hughes may be finding his touch before he chased a wide one from Tremlett and edged to first slip. Strauss took a sharp chance high to his right.
Tremlett generally maintained a fuller length not normally associated with taller bowlers, and a probing line earned him the wickets of Paine and Smith with successive deliveries in his next over.
Paine was trapped on the crease playing back when he should have been forward, and Smith, whose defiant 59 was central to Australia A’s lower-order resistance in the first innings, shouldered arms to a ball that darted back in to hit off stump.
White received assistance in the form of Steve O’Keefe, who mixed compact defence with the odd streaky edge before he was lured down the pitch by Panesar. A leading edge found only Pietersen at mid-off and a partnership of 76 for the seventh wicket was over.
The deficit stood was 24 at that point, and Australia A were still in arrears by the time White, whose 16th first-class hundred spanned 158 balls and contained 12 fours, was caught behind via a faint bottom edge attempting to slog-sweep Panesar and Mark Cameron was lbw on the back foot.
McKay provided some light relief for the home fans by lofting Panesar for six, but Bresnan had Peter George taken at short cover to finish with 4-86 and ensure England’s pursuit was negligible. That they had to bat again will not have bothered them one jot.