England outline Ashes plans
England will leave no stone unturned in their preparation for next summer’s Ashes - a fact proven by the warm-up match they have arranged against Warwickshire immediately before the first npower Test.
National selector Geoff Miller explained the reasoning behind the three-day encounter at Edgbaston which will start on July 1 and coincides not only with a round of LV County Championship matches but also a four-day England Lions tour game against Australia, just a few miles down the M5 at Worcester.
The dates were revealed this morning when the England and Wales Cricket Board published its 2009 domestic fixtures, and Miller emphasised the importance that coach Peter Moores and captain Kevin Pietersen place on the most effective and strategic build-up to any Test series, let alone the Ashes.
“We put a relevance on everything we can arrange to our advantage, and the best possible preparation is a very big part of that,” Miller said.
“Pete and Kevin are very hot on the best preparation. It is down to how we think we can be sure we do it as well as possible.
“We felt that having everyone together - playing with one another and being with one another - would make it easier to control the preparation and create the right atmosphere in the squad.”
Miller also cites the switch from Twenty20 to Test tempo as a factor in creating an opportunity for England’s first-choice XI to prepare competitively, with their progress properly monitored.
“That is one of the reasons as well,” he said. “There is a big difference between Twenty20 and five-day cricket and, of course, we want to be sure everyone is ready to do his best.”
As for those involved with the Lions - at a time when some may characterise the two concurrent matches as a near ‘play-off’ to book an Ashes berth - Miller made it clear the stakes will be high for them too.
“The Lions are very much part of our playing strength in depth,” he said. “It is not just a Test unit.
“Whoever is picked against Australia (for the Lions at New Road) will know they are very much part of it.
“Of course they could get in (the squad for the first Test in Cardiff). You never know what might happen - and form, at that time of year specifically, is going to be very relevant.”
England have also arranged a final preparation match next summer for the NatWest Twenty20 and one-day internationals against Ricky Ponting’s tourists, which will begin at Old Trafford at the end of August.
That fixture will come on August 27 when England will play Ireland at Stormont - 24 hours before Australia’s scheduled meeting with Scotland at a venue still to be confirmed.