Ollie Pope Scored A Perfect 55 In The Practice Game:
Ollie Pope says the strength of England’s training camp, and the three-day warm-up game that ended Friday at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton put the squad in a strong place ahead of the West Indies Test Series that begins next week.
The practice game between Team Stokes and Team Buttler ended in a tie on the final day with Pope making 55 not out of Team Buttler’s second inning to go with his 25 on day one. Team Stokes ended 157 to 4 with Jonny Bairstow, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, and Ben Stokes, all of whom spent valuable time in the centre.
For the most part, the game seemed to be played in a competitive manner and the majority of the contenders for a place in England’s final eleven against the West Indies next week spent time in the middle with either ball or bat. Overall, it was about as good a tune-up for next week’s first Test as England’s management could have hoped for.
“The consistency of the competition going on out there has been genuinely high-quality over the three days,” Pope said. “I think we’re getting there. I felt pretty good at the first pitch, so it was great to spend a little more time out there today. We ‘re all going in the right direction.”
According to Pope, the Ageas Bowl wicket was on the slow side, in contrast to the net pitches on which the 30-man squad had been training since they arrived in Southampton last Tuesday (June 23). It was an interesting challenge for the batsmen, in particular, to force them to adapt to the different conditions.
“It was a soft wicket,” Pope said of the warm-up match pitch. “On the first day, it was a little sluggish, so there wasn’t a lot of carrying. Nicks wasn’t really going through. We ‘re not sure what kind of wicket we ‘re going to get out there next Wednesday, but it was pretty slow. It started to change a little bit at the end.
“We’ve played on some pretty spicy wickets in the courts, and obviously only against our own bowlers. There are no net bowlers around, so the consistency of the bowling has been really high on some pretty spicy wickets. “Sometimes it’s trying to get through the net to prevent your wicket from feeling nice to hit the center of the bat. We ‘re going from one extreme to the other. It’s perfect for our games, so it’s nice to adjust.”
Another thing that England’s players will have to adapt to in the next three weeks is the lack of spectators. While playing a warm-up game in front of empty stalls is one thing, taking to the field in a Test game behind closed doors is going to be a strange experience for the English squad, and Pope says the team is going to think about ways to create their own atmosphere out in the middle.
“When we have huge crowds in and the Barmy Army is here, it’s great, but we’re still going to play Test Cricket and it’s still the pinnacle,” Pope said. “Even if there isn’t a single person in the crowd, it’s still what we all dreamed of doing. It’s still going to be the same nerves in the morning because there’s so much going on there. When that Test Match starts, crowd or no crowd, you ‘re going to be really going to be.
“It has been quiet, especially at a ground like this where there is nothing going on outside the ground and no real noise out there, but that doesn’t change the quality of the cricket. Whether we are going to play a bit of music out of the speakers I’m not sure but we can find ways of creating our own atmosphere I’m sure. We’ve got to find a way to do that when we get on top or when we need a bit of energy.” We have to find a way to do that when we get to the top or when we need some resources.
England will nominate a 22-man squad larger than normal for the opening test on Saturday morning. The extended group of players will provide cover for illness or injury without the need for England to call for replacements from outside the bio-secure bubble created at the Ageas Bowl. The team and management will be screened for COVID-19 on Sunday as part of the ECB ‘s scheduled testing schedule.