Essex’s batsmen, and Tom Westley in particular, showed England the way forward ahead of the Ashes by flaying Australia’s bowlers to all parts of the County Ground on day two of this tour match here yesterday.
With the recurrence of Ryan Harris’s long-term knee injury likely to rule him out of the first two Tests against England, only the rested Mitchell Johnson was missing from what will almost certainly be Australia’s attack for next week’s Ashes opener in Cardiff.
That they allowed Essex, a Second Division Championship team, to reach 299 for 3 by the close is encouraging for England so close to the series.
Westley revealed he received a congratulatory text from Alastair Cook after his sparkling 144 from 209 balls and he will no doubt be tapped for information in the coming days by his Essex team-mate and England’s Test captain. And the 26-year-old batsman will tell him to go after Nathan Lyon, Australia’s off-spinner ,who is tipped to do great things against England’s battery of left-handers this summer.
Lyon’s first over went for 11 runs, including a monstrous six from Westley that ended up in the nearby River Can. The Australian’s first five-over spell went for 54 and he ended the day with a century of his own – conceding 110 runs from 19 overs.
The way Westley and Ravi Bopara set about him may be highly instructive for England’s batsmen over the coming weeks. “I’ve already got a text from Alastair Cook,” said Westley. “Our plan was to target spin and it worked well.”
Like Lyon, Mitchell Starc was also enjoying his first bowl of the tour after being rested for last week’s opening warm-up match against Kent. From an Australian perspective it is hoped Starc will cause mayhem alongside his fellow left-armer – and Mitchell – in Johnson. Yet his first ball of the tour was a shocker, rivalling the wide from Steve Harmison that opened the 2006-07 Ashes series for ineptitude. Yet by the end of the day he had found his range, coming round the wicket to bowl Westley with a delivery that uprooted the Essex’s batsman’s leg stump.
Westley has been tipped by Cook to gain England honours one day and that may come sooner rather than later. The Cambridge-born batsman played with a fluency and confidence born of a prolific 2014 summer, in which he scored more than 1,700 runs across all formats at an average of 55.
Bopara scored a hundred against the Australians in that heady Ashes summer of 2005, an innings that launched his international career. Yet while his England chances now appear to have gone, he showed the experience of a man who has played more than 100 games for his country in compiling a composed unbeaten 86.
All this, of course, is mitigated by how flat the Chelmsford pitch is. Mitchell Marsh showed just how true it is with his first-innings 169.Reuse content