England flexed their muscles on the second day of their match at Edgbaston with James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff in particular sending out impressive signals to Australia six days before the start of Ashes combat.
After a torpid first day of their warm-up match against Warwickshire, Andrew Strauss’s side emphatically showed their superiority on the second.
Anderson and Flintoff shared seven wickets to demolish the top and middle order before Monty Panesar took out the tail to round off the innings for a meagre 102. Then Andrew Strauss and Ravi Bopara collected workmanlike half-centuries to play themselves into some form. Bopara will resume today on 88 with England 185 for two, 373 ahead.
Of England’s batsmen, only Alastair Cook has looked in good nick in this match – Kevin Pietersen failed for the second time in the match – but the bowling looks in excellent order as the first Test nears. The only caveat was the meek fashion in which Warwickshire caved in. Well though Anderson and Flintoff bowled, the batting buckled feebly as nine wickets fell for 64.
Incentives beckoned Warwickshire when they resumed yesterday morning on 31 for one. For the team there was the intriguing opportunity of embarrassing England by taking a lead. For individuals it was a chance to advance personal causes. No one seized the moment.
No one reached 20 and the gulf between international and domestic cricket appeared as wide as the Gulf of Mexico (which, at 810 nautical miles, is pretty broad). In the Bears’ defence they encountered spells from Anderson and Flintoff which, if replicated at Cardiff, could spell trouble for Australia.
Jonathan Trott, with as much to prove as anyone, was dropped by the former off the latter without adding to his overnight 18. He added only a single and then edged Anderson to Matt Prior.
Flintoff tore in from the City End and ousted Tony Frost, beaten for pace, lbw, and Jim Troughton, caught behind. England’s talisman, given the warmest of ovations by the crowd, delivered an encouragingly fiery spell while his fitness and eagerness were illustrated by a remarkable chase and pull-back from the long-on rope – off his own bowling!
While Stuart Broad erred slightly in line, outside off stump, Anderson was spot on and ripped out the middle order. Tim Ambrose was late on an in-ducker and Rikki Clarke fenced into the slips. In between, Ateeq Javid sliced to gully. The 17-year-old, in at the deepest of deep ends against Anderson and Flintoff at full throttle, scored only four but showed technique and fortitude aplenty in a 37-ball stay. Panesar disturbed Keith Barker’s off bail and had Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin caught close in to leave Naaqash Tahir stranded on a polished seven.
When England went in again, Strauss and Bopara pursued form. Both took time to find any and that the opening stand reached 109 does no justice to the bowling. Rankin summoned lift to discomfort both batsmen while Woakes again bowled well and collected a long-overdue first wicket of the match when Strauss (61, 122 balls) sent back a sharp return catch. Pietersen, evidently believing he is a formality for the Ashes team, failed again (frankly, I’d send him not to Cardiff next week but to Taunton to play for Hampshire). But Bopara applied himself diligently and today we will see if the Bears’ batsmen can cope better second time round.