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England come up trumps in dress rehearsal

It was yet another day for the RCA players to go through the rituals of preparing an international team for the real battles ahead, writes C S Luthra.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2006 13:43 IST

It was yet another day for the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) XI players to go through the rituals of preparing an international team for the real battles ahead.

But unlike Tuesday, when they were being treated like ball boys by the Indian team, they looked more than happy to help the England players in their mission.

The reason was simple. Their on-field hard work was acknowledged by the visiting stars.

England looked to have done their homework well. It was simply a matter of giving mach practice to all their players. There were no experiments and no retired hurt gimmicks. All the batsmen and bowlers were given one fair chance to fine-tune their skills against some of the upcoming Rajasthan bowlers.

England skipper Andrew Flintoff admitted after the match that his side played this game with clear objectives.

“There were a few objectives in our mind before going into the match. One was to win the game. And the other was to give batsmen and bowlers some fair deal of opportunity to spend time in the middle,” said Flintoff.

The England skipper also praised the RCA XI side for giving them good match practice. “We are pleased with the side which we played against.”

Apart from experienced opener Andrew Strauss, who was out cheaply, other batsmen in the team flourished. Ian Bell (53), Andrew Flintoff (59) and Jamie Dalrymple (79) got some valuable practice under the sun. Even young Michael Yardy contributed 44 in the team's total of 295 for eight. 

The focus of the match had to be on the comeback boy -- England skipper Andrew Flintoff.  Flintoff has been struggling with an ankle injury since leading his side in the Test series against Sri Lanka two months back.

He showed every sign of being fit in his 64-minute stay at the wicket. The nine boundaries and a towering six that he hit were enough to silence all critics and a warning to the Indians not to take his side lightly in their opening encounter on October 15.

However, he did not bowl at all and there is every possibility that he may not do so in the Championship and that is good news for India. “I do not know when I will start bowling again. I have built it up in the nets. There have been two or three times when I have bowled in the nets. I am feeling strong and assessing myself,”  added Flintoff.

The last time when England came to India in April this year, it was the heat factor that troubled them the most. Now, even in October, the temperature in Jaipur is well over 30 degrees. 

"We have been training hard and are well prepared for the heat. Hopefully, our last experience here would help us this time. The heat is not a factor for us," said Flintoff.

The England skipper also hinted that there could be a possible change in the batting top order. “The order with which we went in today (with Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell at the top) could change. There are a few different options that we can try,” he said without dismissing the possibility of promoting himself or Kevin Pietersen up to the opening slot.

Brief scores: England 295 for 7 in 50 overs (Strauss 1, Bell 53, Flintoff 59, Pietersen 20 3 fours, Yardy 44, Collingwood 4, Dalrymple 79 n.o., WK Reid 2, Joyce 25, Clark 1) beat RCA XI: 151 in 36.2 overs (Harmison 1-20, Anderson 2-29, Lewis 1-26, Mahmood 3-22, Yardy 1-17, Dalrymple 2-29) by 144 runs.