Gloucestershire opener Bracey scores 85 in three-day warm-up match

England hopefuls James Bracey and Dan Lawrence nudge themselves into reckoning for first Test against West Indies with high-class half-centuries during intra-squad warm-up match in Southampton

  • Dan Lawrence, Essex’s 22-year-old Test hopeful, contributed a fluent 58
  • The match, played behind closed doors, was streamed live on the ECB’s website 
  • The Jos Buttler XI’s ended day one on 287 for five after Buttler himself scored 24
  • Ben Stokes, who will lead England in the first Test, enjoyed a less fruitful day

Gloucestershire’s unheralded James Bracey nudged himself into the Test reckoning with a high-class 85 as English cricket sniffed the south-coast air and decided it was finally safe to come out to play.

A seemingly endless 111 days after the coronavirus pandemic cut short the tour of Sri Lanka, the 23-year-old Bracey confirmed his potential during England’s three-day training match at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl, and insisted he had thrown his hat into the ring ahead of next week’s Test series against West Indies.

‘It was a great opportunity to get out there against the new ball and show them I’ve got the capability to do that job,’ he said. ‘I hope today will help my cause. There’s a lot of competition, so I’m not getting too ahead of myself. But it would be really nice to be included at some point.’

James Bracey’s 85 nudged the Gloucestershire opener into reckoning for the first Test

With Dan Lawrence, Essex’s 22-year-old Test hopeful, contributing a fluent 58 before chipping Jimmy Anderson to midwicket, this was a day when the future of English cricket came into sharper focus.

The match, played behind closed doors, was streamed live on the ECB’s website, and wickets were celebrated with a touch of the elbow. To complete a surreal mood, the Jos Buttler XI’s close-of-play total of 287 for five was aided by an unbeaten 24 from Buttler himself.

His opposite number Ben Stokes, who will lead England in the first Test, enjoyed a less fruitful day. He opted to bowl after winning the toss, then dropped Bracey at second slip off Craig Overton on 14.

For Joe Denly, meanwhile, an innings of 48 – before Anderson pinned him leg-before – was characteristically frustrating. He has reached double figures in 22 of his 26 Test innings, but not passed 35 in 15 of them. There are only two scores of 70 or more, and no hundreds. An average of 30 leaves its owner in a precarious place.

Dan Lawrence, Essex’s 22-year-old Test hopeful, contributed a fluent 58 for Jos Buttler’s XI

But he eventually chipped James Anderson to midwicket and Joe Denly also fell to Anderson

The absence of Joe Root on paternity leave for the first Test makes Denly’s position slightly less problematic, but only for the moment. If he fails in that game, he could easily miss out when Root returns, with Kent’s Zak Crawley – 12 years Denly’s junior – slotting in at No 3 instead.

Surrey’s Rory Burns, in his first match since injuring his ankle playing football in January in Cape Town, made 21 before he edged Overton to Ben Foakes. Later, Ollie Pope, another Surrey man, eased his way to 25 before playing round a full-length delivery from the same bowler.

And if Overton was the pick of the attack, then there was also a surprise wicket for his twin, Jamie, initially left out of a game involving 27 of England’s 30-man training squad. He got his chance when Olly Stone suffered a tight left hamstring, and quickly strangled Bracey down the leg side.

It was not, however, a day for the spinners. Jack Leach’s 15 overs cost 57, and when Moeen Ali – hopeful of returning to Test cricket – came on after tea, he leaked 32 in seven.

Rory Burns played his first match since injuring his ankle playing football in Cape Town




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