No nets for England

  • Last Updated: January 1 2014, 11:46 GMT

England decided to skip their scheduled New Year's Day net practice - just two days after coach Andy Flower hinted he wanted "more intensity".

It was fielding drills only for England in Sydney on Wednesday
It was fielding drills only for England in Sydney on Wednesday

Flower had taken issue with a suggestion his regime might be too intense - hinting instead that he perhaps needs to consider a more regimented style.

Yet with just two days to go before England try to salvage some pride by avoiding an Ashes whitewash in the final Test in Sydney, the mixed messages kept coming. And Cricket Australia was quick to flag up the "surprising decision" which it described as been taken "in the midst of an Ashes annihilation".

It is a moot point whether England's actions, or inaction in this case at the SCG, speak louder than Flower's words.

In the aftermath of a fourth successive Test defeat in Melbourne, he discussed at length on Monday how his coaching tenure has evolved. However he made it clear he hopes to carry on, despite England's hugely disappointing campaign here this winter.

Flower said: "If anything, recently, I think I have relaxed a little in certain ways.

"One of the areas we can improve and change, I think I could bring more intensity and a closer control on certain things."

England opted out of their scheduled 8.30am net session but did run extended fielding drills and catching practice on the outfield 90 minutes later - an act not lost on Cricket Australia who decided make a story of it on its official website.

"In the midst of an Ashes annihilation, England decided a net session was unnecessary two days out from the fifth and final Commonwealth Bank Ashes Test in Sydney," its website read.

"Following their capitulation in Melbourne, the tourists' surprising decision on Wednesday means they'll have just one session on game eve to attempt to paper over the cracks and stop Australia completing only the third 5-0 whitewash in Ashes history."

Both England and Australia fulfilled an official invitation to meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott at his Sydney residence on Wednesday afternoon, with practice therefore arranged beforehand.

The hosts, hoping to inflict a second whitewash in three tours on England, held an optional net session which was well-attended but - between back-to-back Tests - featured little bowling from their frontline seam attack.

It fell, meanwhile, to the uncapped Scott Borthwick to explain England's decision to leave batting and bowling practice for another day.

Asked why nets were shelved, he said: "No reason whatsoever.

"We just had a nice run around, bit of catching ... we'll do our skills tomorrow."

Borthwick was able to fine-tune his leg-spin behind the scenes in Melbourne last week, while Alastair Cook's team were losing again in the middle.

He will be left with just one session here, however, against frontline batsmen to try to press his claims for a debut.


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