Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - England's balmy day out - from Stokes' jaffa to preparing the leg-side trap. Putting up the "good show" behind the scenes
Putting up the "good show" behind the scenes
“What a jaffa!”. Ben Stokes's voice echoed around the Ian Healy Oval and the wooded area surrounding Shaw Park. It also bounced off the sun-baked tennis courts next door at the Shaw Park Tennis Centre. None of his teammates made a sound. Not even Joe Root, the man who pouched the catch. To Stokes' credit, the delivery that he'd bowled to get Chris Woakes out was indeed a jaffa.It was unplayable. The ball pitched on a length and lifted venomously at his fellow all-rounder, catching the splice of his bat, before making its way to second slip. The grandiose self-validation was warranted.
It wasn't the only time Stokes was the loudest man at the Ian Healy Oval, on what was his return to England colours. He was, if anything, the most audible and visibly animated member of the English camp on a sultry and muggy day in Brisbane. If he wasn't shouting out encouragement to the other bowlers – ‘Robbo' or ‘Rig' or ‘Ollie Rob' for Ollie Robinson and ‘Jacky Leach' for Jack Leach – he was admonishing a family of ignorant fans for aimlessly wandering in front of the sight-screen, even as Stuart Broad was ready to run in to bowl from that end. And he kept the energy up on the field, in rather sapping conditions, to make sure that the visitors got quite a bit out of their first full day out in the lead-up to the Ashes.
Stokes' second wicket came in his third spell of the day, after he'd been pulled for a couple of boundaries by Woakes. The talisman was also responsible for the first wicket of the tour for the English, when he got a well-set Zak Crawley out in the second session of play. It came off an uppish flick, with Haseeb Hameed taking a smart catch at leg gully.
Stokes did spend some time off the field during the middle session following his second spell. But so did all the other bowlers. They'd finish their respective spells and then headed, almost as part of some procession, to the two massage tables laid right outside one of the dressing-rooms. There they'd lie, two at a time, facing each other, while being tended to by the physios and masseurs.
Stokes did seem to receive some additional attention to his right calf but didn't seem to be too bothered by it when he was running in for his third spell of the day. Saqib Mahmood though was in some strife at one point as he hobbled off the field but returned later to bowl a late spell, where he did get the ball to skid through as usual.
For most parts, Root and his team seemed happy to finally get some sun on their locked down bodies after a terrible start to their tour in terms of weather. The captain himself was among the few guys to spend the entirety of the 80 overs on the field. He kept himself rather busy too. When he wasn't busy discussing field settings and angles of attack with Broad – both for his senior bowler and others in the side – Root was bowling himself. Or he was having a very pointed chat with Leach during the lunch break about his line of attack. At one point, closer to the tea break, Root was signalling to the dressing-room with his hands, as if to suggest that there was no movement in the air, either conventional or reverse. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, it was James Anderson who started getting the ball to move late in the day, creating some buzz amongst the tired, ragged lot.
There were others amongst the massive group of support staff that England are carrying here who were kept on their toes too. For some of them, the afternoon was spent giving throwdowns or feeding bowling machines at the back, where the reserves batted in the nets. Former wicketkeeper James Foster spent the lunch session busy talking to Dawid Malan about the handling of the short of length deliveries, followed by a quick follow-up with Jonny Bairstow. Head coach Chris Silverwood, meanwhile, snuck over to the massage table while Broad had his turn to have a chat with the veteran. The other coaches were busy walking laps around the venue, even as a handful of members from the Brisbane Barmies group snapped pictures of their stars.
While the first wicket of the day aptly went to the man who hadn't originally planned to come but has now changed his mind and lifted the intensity of the upcoming series with his arrival. It was the field that Root set for him and Broad that was quite eye-catching. It wasn't too far from the approach that India came to these shores with to quell the Aussie top-order. The fields on Thursday (December 2), like during the last summer, were straighter, with leg-gully and at times a catching square-leg in position for the two bowlers. Stokes, in fact, even mentioned Steve Smith's name, the moment Crawley was caught by Hameed in the position that India persisted with throughout the 2020-21 summer to Australia's premier batter.
They were occasionally in place for Ollie Robinson too, who did impress in his first outing on pitches where he'll be expected to make an impact over the next two months. He was repeatedly sought out for chats by Broad and Root on the field and bowling coach, Jon Lewis, in the pavilion area, and always came back looking that much sharper.
Even Root and Leach seemed to be bowling a lot straighter with 6-3 leg-side fields on occasions. The captain bowled a majority of his four overs from around the wicket to the right-handers, and even got the wicket of Olle Pope, who fell to a top-edged sweep. And though very early days, they were perhaps signs that England are prepared to borrow a leaf or two from the Ravi Shastri-Ajinkya Rahane-Virat Kohli playbook to beat Australia in Australia.
It was down to Stokes again to keep the intensity alive even in the final half of the day's play, even as Root and Rory Burns showed off some unique moves in the slip-cordon. “Get around him boys,” he yelled out to his team as Broad finished the third over of his final spell, one where he tried to bounce the very-talented Tom Abell and Ben Foakes out. And though he left the field with around five minutes to go for stumps, Stokes was there cheering his weary teammates off the field shouting, “good show lads” at the end of the day's play. He was quite right too.