Key bowling quartet skip Australia A
England are to send their frontline bowling attack - Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn - to Brisbane rather than play them in this week’s final tour match before the Ashes, against Australia A in Hobart.
The quartet will head to Queensland in order to acclimatise for the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba, which begins on November 25, rather than feature in the four-day encounter, starting on Wednesday.
The decision means Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad, a member of the England Performance Programme squad who has been with the Ashes party, will make their first appearances of the tour this week.
Broad first broke the news that he and his fellow frontline bowlers will be leaving Tasmania on Wednesday.
They will be joined on the plane by fast bowling coach David Saker and will link up with the EPP squad in Brisbane.
“A few of us are heading up to Brisbane later this week to get some preparation time,” said Broad.
“Obviously, conditions can be quite different up in Brisbane, so we’re getting a bit of a head start and three or four days extra up there.
“We’ve had two fantastic games as a bowling group together. Now it’s all about preparation for that first Test match - and I see going up to Brisbane early as a great opportunity to get used to conditions.”
Acclimatisation is likely to be key for all the tourists in sub-tropical Brisbane, but none more so than the bowling unit.
“We’re going to have times where we’re going to be spending a lot of time out in the sun - and we need to make sure our bodies are 100% ready for that,” Broad added.
“We’ll see the start of the Hobart game and then go up and get the preparations right with the Performance Squad, who are already in Brisbane.”
Broad began the tour well with five wickets in victory over Western Australia at Perth and, although he could only add one in last week’s draw against South Australia, feels it is the right course of action.
“Perth was a strong start for me personally. Going to Adelaide, I obviously didn’t get too many wickets there, but I felt in good rhythm and hit the deck hard," he said.
“We’re full of confidence as a bowling unit. It’s all about mental and physical preparation for the first Test match now.”
Wind and rain borrowed from the northern hemisphere forced England indoors for today’s Brit Insurance practice day, in which players and media honed their cricketing skills together.
Team director Andy Flower was still sheltering from the elements, in the Tasmania Cricket Association ground pavilion, when he confirmed: “Four of the bowlers are going (to Brisbane early) - Broad, Anderson, Finn and Swann.
“They are going with the bowling coach, probably on the evening of the first day of this four-day game.
“The reasoning is that conditions in Hobart are very different to the ones in Brisbane, and we want to give that group of bowlers a little head start.
“They are going three days earlier than the rest of us, and it will also give an opportunity to the other group of bowlers to put their names forward and perform well against Australia A.”
Each of first-choice four has fared well in the two warm-up matches so far, but a rainy final day in Adelaide limited their opportunity for extra competitive overs.
It seems, though, that Flower and captain Andrew Strauss are satisfied with what they have seen.
“It was great that they performed well in those two games,” said Flower.
“They’ve had a lot of bowling into them so far; they’ve bowled very well. They started off a little bit rusty in Perth but have improved all the time.
“They’re quite comfortable where they are individually, so they’ll be across there early and ready for that first session of the first Test.”
Flower has no qualms either about this temporary parting of the ways for the tourists.
“That’s no concern to us at all,” he said. “The team spirit is very strong, and the fact that they’re going there three days early is not that important.”
He is keen to stress too the challenge being set to England’s back-up bowlers, and the likelihood that each of them could easily end up taking part in this winter’s Ashes at some point.
“Bresnan, Shahzad, Tremlett and Panesar will get a go in this four-day game here,” he added.
“They haven’t had a chance in the middle yet, so they should be desperate to get out there and prove themselves.
“Without a doubt, I would say, one or two of those guys are going to be playing Test cricket in the next couple of months. You don’t have situations where the same bowling attack, or certainly not very often, play five Tests in a row.
“So it’s a very real situation, an opportunity for them to put their names forward and also an opportunity for them to get bowling into them in preparation for just maybe playing in the first Test.”