Ahead of the 2013 Ashes, England got themselves ready for the series in slightly peculiar fashion – with a warm-up fixture against Essex.
Following their run to the final of the Champions Trophy final, the headlining section of England’s international summer that year was a series with their oldest rivals and a warm-up fixture with the county side at Chelmsford was arranged for some time against the red ball.
The match, which was televised, began on June 30 with first-class status and embarrassment for England. Batting first, the side – who a year earlier had sat at the top of the world rankings – were reduced to 212-7 courtesy of wickets from the up-and-coming left-arm quick Tymal Mills, ex-England paceman Sajid Mahmood and leg-spinner Tom Craddock. Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann were forced to the rescue, with both of them finishing the day unbeaten after crossing fifty.
On the second day, Bresnan would go on to make a century, while Swann was forced to go to the hospital for a scan after a Mills delivery struck the off-spinner on the forearm. Craddock meanwhile ended up with a five-for as England eventually declared on 413-9. Joe Root – in his first year as an England international – ended up as his side’s most potent force with the ball, snaring four Essex wickets in the county’s first innings.
The next day involved an odd turn of events. With England batting once more, the game was stripped of its first-class status after injuries to Essex seamers Mills and Masters saw both replaced by Reece Topley and Boyd Rankin of Warwickshire but part of England’s squad. The request for the pair to be included came from England as a depleted county attack offered little help in preparing for the challenge of an Ashes series. It meant that Craddock – who played his last first-class game in 2014 – was denied a first-class five-for that included Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell as victims.
England – who had 15-year-old Aaron Beard on 12th man duties – would go on to secure a comfortable win on the final day, with Swann showing his fitness with a haul of 5-68. While a bumpy warm-up, England would go on to secure a 3-0 Ashes win that summer.