England embarked on a project of damage limitation today in the opening match of their Ashes tour. It was, in truth, the only available option after they conceded an imposing total of 451 for five declared to the WACA Chairman’s XI.
What the total might have reached had the opposition been stronger, as England would have preferred, hardly bears contemplation. But the benign nature of a pitch that was once the fastest and perhaps most frightening on the planet, was put firmly into perspective when the tourists replied with 270 for 2,
Ian Bell, the batting hero of the home Ashes series last summer when he scored three handsome centuries, was again the star turn. He finished the second of the three days on 77no, and was never inconvenienced by any of the 137 balls he received.
Bell and Jonathan Trott had taken their third wicket partnership to 133, and though Bell struck two confident sixes, it was based more on determined acquisition and crease occupation than the playing of big shots. It was essential practice, with a draw the only result having a serious prospect.
In all, nine of the 11 men to have batted so far in the match have made fifties. The only dismissed batsmen to fail to reach the landmark was England’s Test opener, Joe Root, who somehow contrived to be lbw to a ball that skidded on when he was a mere 36.
It was probably the simple old failing of a missing a straight one. Root, who scored 180 of his 339 runs in last summer’s Ashes in one innings, may feel that he missed out. His partner, Michael Carberry, who is the reserve opening batsman, played with gusto and authority in making 78 from 100.
Carberry, who played his solitary Test in Bangladesh three years ago, may never have a better opportunity of scoring a hundred for England. He slashed a cut to gully on the stroke of tea, no doubt surprised that the stroke did not bring his 13 four.
Otherwise, England were quite as untroubled as their opponents. An even bounce was accompanied by just enough pace in the wicket to play attacking strokes off either foot.
Bell was in typically good order, easy on the eye, naturally elegant, Trott less so. The Chairman’s XI added 92 runs in the morning. Jimmy Anderson was again easily the pick of England’s bowlers, the triumvirate of tall men labouring at the other end – Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin – finding that height alone cannot yield wickets.