England find form with bat as Ashes approach

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Jonathan Trott believes everything is coming together for England a week before they embark on their bid for a fourth successive Ashes triumph in Brisbane.

Trott, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen all scored half centuries as England's batsmen made the most of the Sydney sunshine on the second day of their final warm-up on Thursday.

Opener Michael Carberry, who looks set to make his Ashes debut next week, was dismissed for just four but thereafter it was a good day for the tourists, who reached the close of play on 302 for five against an Invitational XI.

Pace bowler Steve Finn had earlier ended up with five for 103 as the Australians were dismissed for 304 before lunch, pressing his claim to be England's third seamer at the Gabba.

"Everyone has got a few runs but you're not going to know exactly what nick you're in until you're in front of 50,000 at Brisbane," Trott told reporters.

"It's more about getting mentally prepared for that... being a tight knit unit, everyone firing, not just the batters but the bowlers and the fielding.

"We've looked good in the field here as well, so everything seems to be coming together."

After Carberry's departure, Cook and Trott enjoyed a long period out in the middle on a good Sydney Cricket Ground wicket, putting on 143 for the second wicket before both were caught behind as a result of loose shots.

Trott, who had averaged just 27 in the first Ashes series of the year in England, was unhappy with the manner of his dismissal and ruefully bit his bat as he made way back to the dressing room with 83 runs to his name.

"As a cricketer, you have pride and you want to go out there and do well every time," Trott added.

"I felt I was in good form and played at a ball I shouldn't have, I was disappointed. Today, I made a mistake and paid for it."

Cook accumulated 81 before making way for Ian Bell, who joined Pietersen at the crease and the pair both survived early scares before taking the game to the bowlers.

EXOTIC SHOTS

Bell smashed 35 of 45 balls but it was Pietersen who really caught the eye, playing conservatively for 45 minutes or so before cutting lose with a full repertoire of extravagant shots.

Showing no signs of the knee problem that forced him to have a cortisone injection last Sunday, he knelt to smash his second six of the innings over midwicket before holing out on the boundary three balls later for 57 from 71 balls.

"It's always nice to see him in full flow and being confident, even in warm-up games," Trott said. "It is important that everyone feels in good touch and the way Kev goes about it might be different but he looks in good form to me."

Leg spinner James Muirhead (2-97) took Pietersen's wicket, a small measure of revenge for the punishment he had received from the almost contemptuous England batsman.

"Before the game I said to the boys he's the one batsman I want to bowl to," the 20-year-old Muirhead said.

"I knew he'd come really hard at me, I know I got hit for a few sixes but to get him out was just really satisfying."

Joe Root, occupying the number six spot he is expected to retain in Brisbane, kept up the scoring rate with a quickfire 26, while Jonny Bairstow, standing in as wicketkeeper for the injured Matt Prior, accumulated a more pedestrian 11. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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