England emerged from the opening match of their Ashes tour today with a draw. It was honourable, expected and slightly disappointing for the campaign ahead.
The tourists did not bat, bowl or field as well as they would have liked and will need to do if they are to retain the prize they have held since 2009. In response to the WACA Chairman’s XI total of 451 for 5 dec, England made 391 all out today.
It gave their opponents almost two sessions to bat in their second innings which ended at 168 for five dec when hands were shaken. England’s bowlers, or most of them, erased the rustiness from their joints which had debilitated them on the first day of the match.
England lost too many wickets too quickly in the morning. This stumble was predicated on Ian Bell’s retirement when he had reached the 45 first-class hundred of his career. He batted with his customary aplomb, reaching the landmark with two handsomely driven fours, before deciding to give the others a bash.
There was an unbeaten hundred also for Jonathan Trott, which if less elegant was equally commanding. But around him there was virtual chaos. Gary Ballance was out first ball – following the two he managed to face on his only other previous innings for England in a one-day international against Ireland – when he edged to the keeper. These things happen but he will have to stop them happening quickly - say by next week – if he is to continue to harbour hopes of playing in the Test series.
Matt Prior immediately bludgeoned a four before he, too, was caught behind on the drive and Ben Stokes fell cutting after a solitary four. It was the practice that the late middle order needed and left England with no clearer idea of who might fill the continually vexatious number six place in the Test side.
Of the trio of fast bowlers, Boyd Rankin was the most impressive, finding speed, bounce and being rewarded with two new ball wickets. Chris Tremlett was again down on pace, Steve Finn was too wayward, though both took late wickets in the afternoon which may be come to be seen as important consolations.