England's Ashes preparations at risk | cricket.com.au



England's Ashes preparations at risk

England are at risk of going into the first Test in Brisbane significantly underdone, after Hobart's weather served as a major hindrance to their Ashes preparations.

Star players Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad haven't played a first-class match since August.

Several others haven't had the chance to get anything meaningful out of the tour matches in Perth and now the one in progress against Australia A.

QUICK SINGLE: Another day lost in Hobart

Friday was another day to forget for England, after they were ridiculed for a dossier of dietary demands leaked to the press.

And they were also forced to ingest Shane Warne's latest attack on Alastair Cook, this time suggesting Pietersen or Swann would make better captains.

Compounding the issues for England in Hobart is that construction at the ground has meant there are no indoor facilities available for players to train in the wet.

Even if some play is possible on day four on Saturday, England must now rely on next week's final pre-Ashes tour match against an Invitational XI in Sydney as their form gauge for the Gabba.

The visitors were already unhappy with the quality of opposition served up to them in WA, and England batting coach Graham Gooch admits the lack of meaningful play in Hobart is a serious concern.

"You want to get some time in the middle, the bowlers want to iron out any little flaws in their run-ups and get their rhythm," Gooch said.

"Cricket is a game of rhythm whether you bat or bowl and certainly if you're sitting in the dressing room you get that sort of malaise of just sitting around. Your enthusiasm goes a little bit, so they do need to be out there because time is short now, five playing days before the first Test left and that's minimal, isn't it?"

After two abandoned days at Bellerive, the scoreboard still reads England 0-318.

It hasn't been all bad for the tourists, batsmen Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry all have big hundreds under their belt on tour.

However, bowling shapes as a far bigger worry.

Conditions in Perth were flat and unhelpful for the quicks, and it's highly unlikely James Anderson, Broad, Swann and Chris Tremlett will be able to roll the arm over on Saturday.

England's plan was to rest their spearhead Anderson for next week's clash at the SCG, but now it seems he will have to play as part of a full-strength attack in a tour match less than a week before the first Test starts on November 21.

Squad members not listed to play Australia A have been travelling from Bellerive into Hobart to use the Tasmanian Cricket indoor facilities.

But players required to remain at the ground in case play restarts have had nowhere to practise.

"I've been to the indoor nets with a few players yesterday and today and no doubt we'll be back there tomorrow if the rain stays around," Gooch said.

"It's okay there for the non-playing guys but the players had to wait to see if the rain subsided and we could get out there. You make the best of it but it's not ideal."