Sun, Nov 03, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Prior backs England’s showing after tour draw

AFP, SYDNEY

Stand-in England captain Matthew Prior praised his team for improving during their tour opener against the Western Australia Chairman’s XI despite managing only an unconvincing draw against the second-string side.

The three-day match in Perth ended when the home team called a halt at 168-5 in their second innings, representing an overall lead of 228 after England were dismissed for 391 in reply to the Chairman XI’s 451-5 declared.

Up against a side comprising fringe first-class players, the tourists were largely disappointing, apart from centuries by key batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott.

They do not appear to have gained much insight into their best side for the first Test, starting in Brisbane on Nov. 21, with almost all their fringe players failing to fire.

However, Prior said the England team got exactly what they needed from the outing, claiming the tourists improved markedly as the match went on.

“I think we got a huge amount from it,” he said. “In all departments, we gradually got better throughout the game, certainly in the field, and from a fielding and bowling point of view.”

England rested several key players for the match, including captain Alastair Cook (sore back), allowing the opportunity for some Test hopefuls to push their claims, most notably for the third seamer’s position and the spot at No. 6 in the batting order.

Pace trio Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin all labored with the ball, taking seven wickets between them in the match, but just two in the home team’s first innings.

Tremlett finished with just one wicket, while Finn and Rankin picked up three each. The trio conceded 425 runs between them.

Batting hopefuls Gary Ballance, who was dismissed first ball, and Ben Stokes (4) also failed to grasp their opportunity, although Michael Carberry made the most of his chance at the top of the order, hitting 78 to advance his cause.

One positive for England was the form of key batsmen Bell and Trott, who both scored centuries.

Trott hit an unbeaten 113 and Bell retired when on 115, the pair spending valuable time in the middle as they shared in a 197-run partnership before the latter decided to give his teammates the chance for some time in the middle.

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