Warm-up leaves tourists in a cold sweat

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The Independent Online

The views from the media centre at the Bellerive Oval are stunning. Behind the new Southern Stand can be seen the icy blue waters of the River Derwent, alive with activity as hundreds of yachts make the most of a fresh south-easterly wind. On the horizon are the rolling hills of Droughty Point and to the right the rising peak of Mount Wellington.

The views from the media centre at the Bellerive Oval are stunning. Behind the new Southern Stand can be seen the icy blue waters of the River Derwent, alive with activity as hundreds of yachts make the most of a fresh south-easterly wind. On the horizon are the rolling hills of Droughty Point and to the right the rising peak of Mount Wellington.

Once again enjoying the vista has been a far more pleasurable experience than watching England play cricket. For the second day in a row Marcus Trescothick's team were comprehensively outplayed by a far more committed and disciplined Australia A side. And it is hard to believe that England's preparations for the Second Test in Adelaide could have gone any worse.

The most desperate hope here was that at least one fast bowler would force his way into the Test side. But Alex Tudor, Stephen Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Craig White have fallen way, way short of what is required. Then there are the batsmen. Apart from John Crawley, who showed application and determination yesterday, they have spent so little time at the crease they cannot know whether they are in form or not.

After failing to make the 204 runs they required to avoid the follow-on England were asked to bat again and had reached 96 for 3 in their second innings by the close of play, still 74 short of making Australia A bat again.

Looking at the scoreboard it would be easy to assume that England were as bad with the bat yesterday as they were on Friday with the ball. Not so. The batsmen had to compete against three high-quality bowlers who made the most of a two-paced, up-and- down pitch. However, with only four players getting into double figures, the batsmen are far from completely blameless for the state of this match and there is still plenty of work to be done in this department too.

In bowling as they did, Brad Williams, Stuart Clark and Ashley Noffke not only highlighted the inadequacies of England's bowlers on day one but also exposed the huge gulf between Australia's back-up seamers and England's.

These three operated to a simple plan, which was to run in hard and aggressively and pitch the ball in the business area. On a wicket offering inconsistent bounce this was all that was required and in keeping to it Australia A made survival the height of England's expectations.

Although he took only two wickets, Noffke, Middlesex's overseas player, was the pick of the bowlers. Running in down the hill he combined shaping the ball away from a right-handed batsmen with an immaculate line on or just outside off-stump. In a 16-over spell either side of lunch the 25-year-old took 2 for 22 and showed why Australia have hopes of him one day replacing Glenn McGrath.

Starting the day on 50 for 1, England needed a further 154 to avoid the follow-on and got off to the worst possible start when Trescothick edged a good ball from Williams through to the keeper. This method of dismissal is becoming a worry. The Australians have a theory that the Somerset left-hander has a weakness to fullish balls angled across him, and everybody is bowling there – he has been caught in the slip cordon in three of his last four innings. Trescothick has not yet come up with an answer. His effort to counter it in the second innings simply resulted in him moving too far across and being bowled through the gate, with his feet nowhere.

Michael Vaughan also failed to get the match practice he would have liked when he played on for the second time in this game. Apart from Crawley only Mark Butcher and Robert Key got in and gave England any chance of avoiding the follow-on.

But both fell to loose shots when their efforts to take the game to the opposition back-fired. This brought Andrew Flintoff and Craig White to the crease and neither did anything to suggest they should be considered in Adelaide. Both were victims of the honest toil of Clark who ended England's chances of taking much out of the match.

Of course, this whole scenario may all be part of a cunning plan by the England coach, Duncan Fletcher. He could be hoping that history will yet again repeat itself.

England lost heavily here on their Ashes tour four years ago without the services of their captain, Alec Stewart. A similar thing happened in Grenada on the 1994 tour to the West Indies when Michael Atherton decided to have a rest. On both occasions England won the following Test matches in Melbourne and Barbados. It's a straw, so we may as well clutch it.

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