Timing is perfect for Bell, Collingwood and England

Batsmen follow bowlers in setting right mood for Brisbane

Those who aspire to Olympic glory will tell you that all their training is aimed at reaching a peak of excellence on a specific day at a particular time, when the gold medal itself is in touching distance. All in between is a bagatelle.

It cannot be quite like that for an England cricketer. Too much is going on for that. But the Ashes, more than anything else in their sporting lives, represent their Olympian heights. The Ashes alone are what they have been working towards these past months, whatever they may say.

In terms of training being connected with peaking all is - at last - almost tickety-boo. After a disciplined effort with the ball in which the seamers especially were commendable, the middle-order batsmen yesterday used their final practice before the long-awaited First Test to hone their game.

There was better, though not conclusively bright, news about the strike bowler-in-chief, Stephen Harmison. He bowled 15 or so net overs at mean pace to test the side strain which persuaded him to withdraw from the match against South Australia.

Out in the middle, where Harmison's overs would have mattered more, Ian Bell made a century - his first, though it is to be hoped not his last, in Australia. Paul Collingwood scored 80. Together they put on 178 from 62 overs for the fourth wicket.

They were as diligent as you would expect from such a duo. From the dangerous waters of 34 for 3 after the fall of nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard and opener Alastair Cook, poking at one, they needed to be. Almost excessively careful at first, they virtually ignored scoring. At one stage in the morning there were no boundaries for 19 overs.

This was a time for spending time in the middle. In the context of their first-class averages these runs were nice but meaningless. In the context of arriving at Brisbane next Thursday feeling as though the training has been worthwhile it was perfect.

They were able to see plenty of Shaun Tait, who is a different proposition from the bowler who played two Tests in England last year. He is still wayward but he is capable of delivering the ball full at an alarming velocity.

There was also the benefit of over after over of spin, from the off-break bowler Dan Cullen and the leg-spinner Cullen Bailey. The Cullen spin twins. Bailey was not exactly Shane Warne, with a tendency to pull them down too short, but it will have done no harm to face the ball turning away from the bat before the old maestro gets down to the real business.

In the afternoon Bell and Collingwood played with considerably more freedom. Bell hit a lovely six over long-off which Pietersen would have liked. Pietersen himself stayed briefly, making 32 from 35 balls, which was still time enough to include a reverse-swept four.

A forerunner of what he can expect was to be seen in the three men posted out for the hook shot against Tait. Collingwood will bat at four and Pietersen five in the Tests, a turn-up perhaps, but one to avoid possibly exposing Pietersen too early knowing he can go at a lick later.

Late in the day Tait limped off the field, apparently giving Australia another problem before the Test with Shane Watson (hamstring) and Damien Martyn (elbow, but less worrisome) reporting niggles. It turned out to be cramp.

Andrew Flintoff, who batted with deliberate circumspection, will obviously be relieved when the series is under way. "We've prepared well," he said. "Everyone is excited about next Thursday. It's huge. I have been involved in one Ashes series and the enormity of being able to play in another is exciting, as it is for every member of that dressing room and the back-up staff."

He was not saying much, but then Fred knows it is time for the talking to stop.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
food + drinkFar-reaching retrospective celebrating Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition