During the latest instalment of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, managing editor of Wisden.com Ben Gardner gave his thoughts on whether intra-squad warm-up games should become a regular fixture prior to every Test series.
The West Indies have already had a taste of Old Trafford – the location for the second and third Test – on their tour of England. However, rather than play a patchwork Lancashire side made up of a combination of first-teamers, second-teamers and debutants, that would have breezed passed with ease, Jason Holder’s side played with themselves.
The West Indies prepared for the first Test in Southampton with two intra-squad warm-up games. Although this move was forced, due to Covid-related restrictions, the warm-up games were highly competitive and intriguing to follow. They also an opportunity for young up-starts to make an impression; Joshua da Silva made an impressive 133* and 56*, to stake a claim for an opening berth at some point down the line.
England were also left with no option but to play an intra-squad warm-up, giving a chance to their plethora of young players to prove their ready to make the leap into Test cricket. James Bracey and Dan Lawrence, for example, made 85 and 58 respectively, demonstrating they both soon may warrant international debuts.
“The practice match one is interesting because I don’t think there’s any doubt against a county side, who would just pick second-teamers and give debuts to a lot of people, it’s going to be less intense than a warm-up game where not only are you competing to get ready for the series but you’re competing for places as well,” said Ben. “There’s real heat on those games. Australia as well had an intra-squad warm-up game before the Ashes last year, and, I mean they were 100-8 on the first morning, but they did then win the first Test.
“I think there’s not only something to the amount of time in the country but that type of warm-up I can see it catching on. I guess the question will be if teams can afford to fly that many players over to a country. But I mean, you arrange a Lions tour alongside it or an A tour or whatever and all of a sudden it becomes a much easier thing to do. There’s possibly something in that.”