Ashes 2013-14: England opt for tougher opposition in warm-up game ahead of 1st Test

England will play against an invitational side instead of a New South Wales XI team in Sydney © Getty Images

Sydney: Oct 31, 2013

England will face stronger opposition ahead of their Ashes Test opener with an invitational side to replace a New South Wales XI in Sydney, Cricket Australia (CA) said Thursday.

Amid reports that England wanted a tougher match ahead of the first Gabba Test against Michael Clarke’s Australians on November 21, the Invitational XI will feature a number of leading batsmen hand-picked from other states for the November 13-16 clash.

While the full line-up has yet to be determined, CA said it expected the side would feature players including Usman Khawaja, Phil Hughes, Ed Cowan, Aaron Finch and Adam Voges.

CA General Manager of Team Performance Pat Howard said the change was part of an ongoing plan to strengthen the country’s batting depth.

“We feel this match presents a good opportunity to give a core group of talented batsmen from a number of states further experience against a strong international line-up,” Howard said in a statement.

“The ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) is supportive of this plan. It wanted us to field a strong line-up, so we will use the opportunity to promote key players in the Australian system.

“In return, we look forward to the ECB fielding powerful teams for the touring Australian side in 2015.”
Reports said England was originally upset to learn that the NSW XI game clashed with a full round of Sheffield Shield domestic matches and it would not face top players.

The Australian newspaper reported that the ECB complained to Cricket Australia about the situation.
However, state associations were not too happy about CA’s decision to take one of the top players from each state out of the Shield games.

“All states knew there would be some importing of players across these games. It wasn’t quite expected the way it’s turned out,” Western Australian Cricket Association chief executive Christina Matthews said. “It’s pretty hard for us to keep losing our captain (Adam Voges).”

Queensland coach Stuart Law said: “I very much hope that after this the ECB is just as fair dinkum when Australia goes back with the composition of their teams.”

Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said he didn’t like the Shield season being disrupted, but that he believed the decision by CA was the correct one provided England return the favour in 18 months’ time.

England have another warm-up game in Hobart next week against a strong Australia A side.