Now for the Main Event

Starting the day at six for 303 in reply to South Australia’s seven (declared) for 247, England went on to 415 all out on the stroke of lunch. With captain Andrew Flintoff compiling a sedate (by his standards) 108-ball 48 and recalled wicketkeeper Geraint Jones taking his time over a patient 33, it was left to Sajid Mahmood with a bright and breezy 41 from only 46 balls to supply the fireworks in the morning session.

Shaun Tait was the pick of the South Australian bowlers, taking three for 87, while young spinner Cullen Bailey also took three scalps, albeit for an expensive 128 runs. Veteran pace man Jason Gillespie proved the most economical of the bowlers from either side in the match, turning back the clock with two for 38 from 24 miserly overs.

After the luncheon adjournment, South Australia began their second innings in positive style against Matthew Hoggard and James Anderson. Former Australian opener Matthew Elliott struck a forceful 55 before falling to a stunning interception from Anderson at midwicket off the bowling of Monty Panesar. England’s other and less likely spinner, Kevin Pietersen took the only other wicket to fall, that of Cameron Borgas for 27, caught somewhat ironically by substitute fieldsman and potential Test match front line spinner Ashley Giles.

With South Australia well-placed at two for 164 and with one hour to play, the captains agreed to call off the match. At that time South Australian opener Daniel Harris was 71 not out and Callum Ferguson undefeated on seven.

Although Anderson, Hoggard, Flintoff and Panesar all had good work outs in this match, coach Duncan Fletcher will surely be aware that his bowlers have now failed to bowl a side out in five innings on tour. This may in large measure be due to the non-first class nature of the fixtures which England have arranged in the lead up to the first Test, but with Flintoff returning from injury and strike bowler Steve Harmison yet to find decent form on tour, Fletcher would no doubt have hoped that his other bowlers might have run through a provincial eleven before the real stuff starts on Thursday at the ‘Gabba.

In more heartening news for England, all of their likely top six batsmen for the first Test have now scored at least one half-century on tour. Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood were both particularly impressive in this match, with Bell demonstrating for the first time in this country the strides he appears to have made since several leaden-footed performances in the Ashes series of 2005. The sight of Harmison spending a substantial period as a substitute fielder today will also have dispelled fears that the side strain which kept him out of this game might prevent him from taking the new ball against Australia on Thursday.

From an Australian perspective, Tait’s return to the field today after leaving the ground early yesterday when apparently hobbling was also good news. Reports suggest that his difficulties yesterday were no more than cramp. The selectors will be hoping that this is the case, especially with Shane Watson in doubt for the first Test owing to a hamstring injury picked up on Friday while bowling for Queensland against Western Australia. Whether Tait plays in the first Test or not, his raw pace and unpredictability have clearly gained favour with the selectors. Had he and Watson both been ruled out from the 13 man squad named for Brisbane, the best-laid plans of the locals would have been in jeopardy before a ball had been bowled in anger.

Despite not recording a victory on tour so far, England has demonstrated a solidity with the bat which has been sorely missing in recent Ashes tours to Australia. Their warm up matches will have boosted the confidence of the batsmen while the bowlers, Harmison aside, have put valuable miles under their belts.

For 18 months players and supporters of England and Australia have been hypothesizing on squads, prophesying on line-ups and pontificating about predictions.

The preliminaries are now over. Come Thursday, the real battle begins.

South Australia 247-7 dec
Darren Lehmann 99, Cameron Borgas 73
Matthew Hoggard 3-40, Andrew Flintoff 1-34

England 415
Ian Bell 132, Paul Collingwood 80, Andrew Flintoff 47
Shaun Tait 3-87, Cullen Bailey 3-128

South Australia 164-2
Daniel Harris 71*, Matthew Elliott 55
Kevin Pietersen 1-24, Monty Panesar 1-34

Match Drawn

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