It can't be often that four first class matches are played at the same time in Australia. Even though almost every notable Australian player is appearing either for their state or for the A team, the first day's play in each game produced few positives for supporters of the national team (not to mention the selectors) with the First Test a week away..
England XI 1/22 trail Australia A 230 (S O'Keefe 66, S Smith 59, C Tremlett 4/59 by 208 runs:
Tour match D1/4 at Bellerive Oval Hobart).
Channel 9 are televising the most important match, which it incorrectly billed as a "Test". In a chilly Hobart Australia A struggled against the England second string bowling attack in conditions which were initially favourable to bowlers.
5/66, with 31 of those contributed by late replacement Ed Cowan, suggested that Australia's batting depth is much less than many people think. Only Steven Smith and Steve O'Keefe enhanced their reputations. Smith's 59/121b (1x6, 5x4) reinforced the view of those who, like me, think he is essentially a batting allrounder, while O'Keefe's 66/116b (2x6, 6x4) helped restore the home team's fortunes to a moderately respectable 230. At stumps England, who are fielding the same batting lineup for the third game on the trot (doesn't Eoin Morgan deserve a run?), are 1/22.
In Sydney day 1 of a low scoring match saw New South Wales 97 & 0/18 trailing Tasmania 125 by 10 runs with 10 2nd inns wkts in hand . For NSW Simon Katich made 1, Shane Watson 6 (he's 13* in the second innings) and Brad Haddin 10, while for Tasmania Ricky Ponting made 7. The quick bowlers turned in good figures: Doug Bollinger's 3/25 provided some good news (though neither Nathan Hauritz nor Xavier Doherty -the two supposed contenders for the Test spinner's role - have had a real opportunity to show what they can do).
In Perth Western Australia, with 6/319, are comfortably placed against Victoria thanks to Wes Robinson 78, Adam Voges 91*and, most welcome, Mitchell Johnson 82*. Alas, both Mike Hussey (0) and Marcus North (17) failed, which will probably give them both a sleepless night or two and encourage the national selectors to keep thinking hard about the composition of the Test XI.
In Brisbane, where fewer big names are playing, Queensland are 2/27 in reply to South Australia's modest first innings of 227 .