May 25, 2017 / 3:04 AM / 4 months ago

Sapping heat, crocodiles await in England's final Ashes warmup

Britain Cricket - England Nets - Headingley - 23/5/17 England's Ben Stokes during nets Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - England’s final warmup match before taking on Australia in the Ashes will see them play in the sweltering heat of the northern Queensland city of Townsville, where huge crocodiles bathing in local waters are a common sighting.

With temperatures regularly pushing into the high 30s in November in Townsville, Joe Root’s team should be well acclimatised by the time they head south to Brisbane for the first test at the Gabba starting on November 23.

England will play a four-day match against a Cricket Australia XI from November 15 at Townsville’s Tony Ireland stadium, which lies adjacent to the Ross River, a notable meeting place for saltwater and freshwater crocodiles.

After a hard day’s play, the tourists might think twice about cooling off in the coastal city’s lagoons or taking a swim off the foreshore, where mammoth crocodiles occasionally cause local beaches to close.

Wildlife workers hauled out a 4.7-metre saltwater “bruiser” that was swimming about 50 metres off the popular Strand beach last year.

Townsville media have reported an “explosion” of crocodile encounters this year, with triple the number of calls to wildlife authorities to May, compared to the same period last year.

Britain Cricket - England Nets - Headingley - 23/5/17 England's Jake Ball during nets Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff Livepic

Crocodiles and people have long co-existed peacefully in the muggy city of 180,000, but the encroachment of the ancient reptiles into public areas has raised alarm bells.

Politicians in the opposition party have tabled a controversial culling proposal which would authorise wildlife officers to shoot problem crocodiles if unable to remove them quickly from high-risk areas.

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The England team will also do well to apply insect repellent liberally in a city which suffers occasional outbreaks of dengue fever, and where the main local waterway coined the name for the Ross River virus, a debilitating tropical disease borne by mosquitoes.

England’s Townsville tour will follow less intrepid warmup stops in Perth and Adelaide, Cricket Australia said on Thursday.

The tourists’ first hit-out on Australian soil will be a two-day match from November 4 against a Western Australian XI at the WACA, which was recently confirmed as the venue for the third test starting from December 14.

The side will then head to Adelaide Oval for a four-day day-night tour match against a Cricket Australia XI from November 8, offering them a chance to get accustomed to the pink ball before the first day-night Ashes test at the same venue from December 2.

In the leadup to the third test, England play another two-day tour match against a CA XI on December 9-10, at a Perth venue to be confirmed.

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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