Divide and conquer: Aussie squads ramp up Ashes prep
Australia's 25-man Ashes party split into the Hick and Haddin groups for a couple of intense training sessions in Southampton on Saturday
Sam Ferris in Southampton
21 July 2019, 07:37 AM AEST
The Ageas Bowl's Nursey Ground played host to a unique day in Australian cricket on Saturday as the tourists' Ashes preparation shifted gears less than a fortnight out from the opening Test in Birmingham.
For perhaps the first time on foreign soil, 25 Australian players from two opposing teams practiced at the superb training facilities in Southampton ahead of next week's four-day intra-squad clash.
Following Friday night's player draft which split the massive squad into the Hick XII and Haddin XII – with Usman Khawaja sitting out as he rehabilitates his injured hamstring – it was Brad Haddin's team who had first crack in the nets on Saturday morning.
Not since the New Year's Test in Sydney had the trio of Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood bowled as a pack but they were back in action in the nets, armed with brand new Dukes balls that swung in the air and nipped off the seam.
Starc and Hazlewood back bowling in tandem with the Dukes ball #Ashes pic.twitter.com/2mwjxB31ro— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 20, 2019
Starc, who was the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup using a white ball which barely swung, had the Dukes ball hooping, with one his lightning yorkers crashing into the front foot of young gun Will Pucovski. The batsman hobbled out of the net and was almost certainly out lbw.
Veteran seamer Peter Siddle watched on having joined the squad from county side Essex, for whom he's taken 34 wickets this season to help his side to the top of Division One of the County Championship.
In perhaps a glimpse of the not-too-distant future, David Warner and Marcus Harris shared a net in what was their first time batting together.
The overcast skies cleared around midday to allow stinging sunshine to bathe the training track for Graeme Hick's side in the afternoon.
While Khawaja won't play in the all-Australian encounter, the left-hander showed positive signs warming up with his teammates before batting in the nets towards the end of the session.
The pace quartet of James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain and Michael Neser all bowled, with the latter triumvirate backing up from this week's first-class match against the England Lions in Canterbury, which ended in a draw.
In-form batsman Matt Wade, who hit three centuries on the Australia A tour of England, will play as a specialist batsman in the highly-anticipated game, with captain Tim Paine to take the gloves.
Test great Steve Waugh was on deck to watch both squads practice, passing on advice and observations to the players who idolised the former Test captain during his decorated career.
Steve Waugh back in Aussie colours ahead of the #Ashes 😍 He's even rolling the arm over! pic.twitter.com/x4kFOpc3Y8— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) July 20, 2019
While it might have been a day of firsts in Southampton there was a familiar sight at the end of training – Steve Smith hitting ball after ball as the last to leave the nets.
Smith's insatiable appetite for batting is as present as ever and he'll get his chance to resume the feeding frenzy on Sunday when his side returns for practice.
Hick XII: Joe Burns, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c, wk), Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Chris Tremain, Nathan Lyon
Haddin XII: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Kurtis Patterson, Travis Head (c), Marnus Labuschagne, Will Pucovski, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland