Ashes 2013-14: Four talking points as England target Invitational XI attack

Ashes 2013-14: Four talking points as England's batsmen target Australia Invitational XI attack as hosts finish 302-5 on day two

By Stuart Clarke

Finn cleans up

Steven Finn recovered from his average display on day one to wrap up the Australia Invitational XI’s innings before lunch. Finn finished with figures of 5/103 as the Australians added only 33 more runs to their overnight tally. Stuart Broad continued in his miserly form, taking two more wickets for next-to-no runs, while Boyd Rankin also helped himself to a tail-end wicket. Ryan Carters fell six runs short of his maiden first-class century, as he edged an out-swinger from Broad to Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps. Finn’s wickets will throw him into the thoughts of Andy Flower for selection at the Gabba, but going at 3.5 per over against a sub-standard batting line-up will still be of a concern to the powers-that-be.

Pietersen doesn’t hold back

Kevin Pietersen showed that his troublesome knee is not affecting his batting as he took aim at the Australian bowlers, scoring 57 from 71 balls. Pietersen needed little more than 30 minutes to decide that he had played enough defensive shots for one day and turned his attention to entertaining the sparse crowd. Reverse sweeps and flashing drives took him past 50, before young Victorian spinner James Muirhead tempted into a shot too many and he was caught on the long-off boundary. In this form, the Australian bowlers will not be relishing bowling to Pietersen when the Ashes start, but as always with KP, his team-mates hope that his confidence does not get the better of him.

Strong starts from the batsmen

Alastair Cook continued his fine form on the tour with a fluent 81, as he added 143 with Jonathan Trott (83) for the third wicket. Michael Carberry could only make four before he nicked a good ball from Josh Lalor to Peter Nevill behind the sticks. Trott’s second good score of the winter, following his 113 not out in Perth, means that England’s top four go into the first Test at the Gabba with some time at the crease under their belts. Ian Bell scored a classy 35 before falling to Muirhead, but all eyes will now be on Joe Root and Bairstow as they look to make their first real runs of the tour, especially if Bairstow is needed to replace Matt Prior in the first Test.

“Bowler’s name please?”

With a combined total of 12 first-class matches between them, England and Australia supporters alike will be forgiven for not knowing much about the Invitational XI bowlers on show at the SCG. Muirhead, a pupil of Shane Warne, picked up two wickets, but was a target of Pietersen’s abuse, as the England man launched him into the Member’s Stand. Josh Lalor, Nic Bills and Chris Tremain did not fare much better, with England nearly surpassing the Australian total before stumps, averaging more than four per over. The England bosses would have hoped for a slightly stiffer test than this before the Test series started, but they cannot complain about their batsmen not having enough time at the crease.

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