England may be outsiders for the upcoming Ashes series but they will believe they have every chance of springing a surprise on Australia if James Anderson continues to bowl like he did here in his first run-out of the tour.
This may have only been a two-day warm-up match against an inexperienced Western Australian XI – which inevitably ended in a draw.
Yet Anderson’s ability to make the Kookaburra ball talk was a positive sign ahead of the far tougher challenges ahead, especially given the failures of batting lynchpins Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root the previous day.
Maybe Anderson’s performance here shouldn’t be a surprise given England’s all-time leading bowler, who raced past the 500-wicket mark in Tests last summer, is seemingly improving with every passing year.
Now 35, Anderson appears fitter than ever and he made light work of the 13 overs he bowled on a scorching hot day in Perth to return figures of four for 27 as the WA XI were dismissed for 338 in response to England’s 349 for six on day one.
Although his overall Test average in Australia over three Ashes series is a modest 38.33 compared to his career mark of 27.39, Anderson does have one decent tour under his belt – in 2010-11 when his 24 wickets helped England to their first series win here in 24 years.
Anderson’s ability to get the old ball swinging today when he took two wickets in three balls during the afternoon session was particularly heartening for Root’s team.
He did it again during a third spell in the evening that comprised three maidens and saw him take two wickets in four balls.
The supporting cast also got a decent run out, with Jake Ball deserving far more than the one wicket he took during 12 overs that went for just 31 runs.
Craig Overton’s two wickets were encouraging but he tailed off after a good opening spell.
However, Stuart Broad, second on England’s all-time list behind Anderson, had a day to forget – struggling badly as he shipped 64 runs from his 13 overs. He at least took the final wicket of the day to get his tour off and running.
Chris Woakes was another outshone by Ball and Overton, conceding 53 runs from 15 overs.
There was some positive news for England in the sight of Moeen Ali, ruled out of the first two tour matches with a side strain, moving well as he was put through a series of shuttle runs at lunch.
Surely the all-rounder will be fit for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on November 23.
The tourists know it will be much harder take wickets on the flatter pitches found in Australia and with a Kookaburra ball that offers far lateral movement than the Dukes used in England.
However, even the most pessimistic Englishman among the crowd at a sun-drenched WACA ground would have been concerned when the young WA XI – average age 22 - went into lunch on 124 for one.
That was partly down to ring-rustiness from the touring attack and a remarkable performance from 20-year-old opener Josh Phillipe, who had 88 of his team’s runs by the time lunch came around.
Phillipe has yet to play first-class cricket for his state but showed true class at the crease with a series of eloquent drives that had the visiting fielders chasing the ball to the boundary on 16 occasions.
The young Australian played club cricket for Taunton last summer and then returned to the UK this year to turn out for Newcastle Cricket Club. Phillipe actually played two games for Durham’s second XI during his time in the North-East.
He batted brilliantly here during a 92-ball innings that was chanceless other than a drop by Root at second slip when he was on 72.
Phillipe was poised to score a memorable century at the lunch interval but he was dismissed in the first over of the afternoon session when he was stumped off the bowling of leg-spinner Mason Crane.
Overton was the pick of England’s bowlers during a morning session that saw both Anderson and Broad struggle in their initial five-over spells.
Indeed, he claimed the only wicket, Jake Carder hooking the Somerset bowler to Gary Ballance at fine leg.
The WA XI were 125 for two when Phillipe eventually departed after lunch and England had much better afternoon and evening sessions thanks largely to Anderson.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies