Sport in brief: England's Ashes mission granted perfect schedule

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The Independent Online

Cricket: England were yesterday handed the perfect preparation in their quest to retain the Ashes, with three warm-up matches arranged before the first Test gets under way in Brisbane.

England's previous tour of Australia saw them hammered 5-0, with some critics blaming their poor showing on a lack of game-time.

Andrew Strauss and his side will play two three-day games, against Western Australia and South Australia respectively, and one four-day game, against Australia A, before the opening Test on 25 November. England also face Victoria in a three-day game in between the second Test at Adelaide Oval and the third Test at the WACA.

Umpire Mark Benson, who walked out of the second Test between Australia and West Indies last December, has confirmed his resignation from international cricket because of worries about his health. He will, however, continue to umpire on the county circuit. Benson has officiated in a total of 27 Tests, 72 one-day internationals and 19 Twenty20s.