England won’t be losing too much sleep over the failures of Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root in their first innings of this Ashes tour. Instead, they will surely be delighted that those who most needed runs got them.
The Western Australian XI, Test contender Nathan Coulter-Nile excepted, were a step down from international standard. In fact, this was an attack that offered plenty of opportunities for the touring batsmen to cash in.
That Cook didn’t was down to an excellent delivery from Coulter-Nile in the first over of the day.
Root was dismissed by the promising 18-year-old seamer Aaron Hardie during the afternoon session for nine.
There was some dispute over whether he had actually edged the ball behind – the Yorkshireman certainly didn’t think so.
But there is no reason for anyone in the touring party to worry about the form of their two most experienced batsmen on the basis of one innings.
Come the Ashes, both should be relied upon to stand up and be counted when it matters. After all, they have proven class and track records to fall back on.
The same cannot be said for Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan or Gary Ballance.
All four made welcome half-centuries on the first day here at the WACA to get their respective tours off to positive starts.
Stoneman, a rookie opener at international level who debuted during the final three Tests of the northern summer against West Indies, was impressive in making 85. With nine years of Grade cricket experience under his belt, the 30-year-old is used to Australian conditions. It showed, even if the task facing him during the Ashes will be on another level entirely.
Vince made 82 from No. 3 but the Hampshire batsman was far from convincing, dropped three times during a patchy innings. Maybe he can be excused given this was his first hit of the tour.
Yet Australia will not be as accommodating and the vulnerability outside off stump that ended his first spell in Test cricket last year was again in evidence here as two of the chances he received came from drops in the slip cordon – Coulter-Nile the guilty party on both occasions.
Vince really was a surprise call into England’s Ashes squad given the paucity of his contributions during the seven Tests on home soil against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2016. His average of 19 hardly hints at a player who will send shivers through the Australian dressing-room. But if the pitches during the Ashes offer little lateral movement he could score big runs.
Unusually for an English player, Vince struggles against the moving ball at the highest level.
Malan barely justified his place on the plane to Australia with two painstaking half-centuries against West Indies at the end of the northern summer.
So, his 56 from 88 balls here was a welcome change, even if again this attack was as accommodating as he could have hoped for.
Malan is the favourite to bat at No. 5 for England come the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
However, Ballance is the man who will rival him for that berth and although he was dropped on 36, his 51 from 102 balls keeps things interesting in the race for that place in England’s XI.
No doubt, Stoneman was the most impressive of the touring batsman on display here and his 153-run stand with his room-mate in Perth – yes, England are sharing apartments – bodes well for the future.
Stoneman said: “It’s nice, we’re roomies as well this week in Perth and that was good for us. Partnerships are key for us on this tour so it was important for us today. We’re happy with how it’s gone.
“I enjoy batting with him, he’s quite relaxed and always quite easy on the eye when he’s in full flow and he’s got a great range of shots.
“I hope we can complement each other well. We’ve started off on the right foot and if we find ourselves playing in the Tests together hopefully we can put on some good partnerships.”
On his own performance, Stoneman added: “Momentum is massive in any sport and as an individual if you get off on the right note on tour you can hopefully snowball that and keep things progressing. It stops any technical or mental doubts creeping in and lets you get on with your work until that first Test.”
As for the cheap dismissals of Cook, England’s leading Test runscorer of all-time, and Root, he added: “I don’t think it’s a good thing they missed out. It would have been nice for them if we’d had six guys all passing 50. But in terms of the people that did miss out it’s a bit of a lesser blow it’s two guys who have phenomenal records in Test cricket and know their games inside out.”
England face far tougher challenges ahead on this tour but at least they have started off positively, with the four men who needed a confidence boost getting exactly what was required.