ENGLAND’S extreme attention to detail is set to come under fresh scrutiny after details of their 82-page health-conscious Ashes menu were leaked - and promptly scoffed at in the Australian media.
Almost 200 varieties of food and drink - including “piri-piri breaded tofu with tomato salsa”, a “quinoa and cranberry breakfast bar” and “mungbean curry with spinach” - feature in the catering requirements England have sent to Test match grounds for this winter’s Ashes campaign.
Few can be surprised, in the evidently enlightened modern age, that international sportsmen are being encouraged to stick to a healthy diet - especially when in competition.
But the dishes referred to in a document leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald, specifying a comprehensive list of exotic - some may say faddy - foodstuffs will nonetheless give Australian crowds plenty of extra ammunition with which to torment the tourists.
It also provides a window on the painstaking, meticulous work done behind the scenes as England’s management try to ensure their team has the edge over the opposition.
The catering options, prescribed by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s performance nutritionist Chris Rosimus, contains a selection of food for every potential meal break - adding it is “essential” all are cooked exactly to the chef’s instructions.
Rosimus adds in the exhaustive pamplet: “Some ingredients within this book will not be in season when you come to use them.
“If availability is an issue, please do not use an alternative or omit from the recipe.
“Please feel free [unless specified] to serve the sandwiches on any variety of bread you wish. However, a preference would be whole wheat, seeded or rye varieties.”
It is understood Australia also circulate their nutrition guidelines to venues in advance, but their requirements contain significantly less detail.
Former Australia fast bowler Merv Hughes was happy to offer his predictable reaction to reports of England’s high-brow culinary policy.
Asked for his preference, he told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Give me a ham and pickle sandwich.”
In his own playing days, he recalled a simple and reliable menu. “It didn’t matter which ground - normally there was a cold meat and salad, roast of the day, a choice of fish and chicken.”
Turning to the actual cricket, England this morning endured a second successive washout on day three of their tour match against Australia A at the Bellerive Oval.
Several hours of rain, and then wet bowlers’ run-ups, frustrated the tourists on Thursday - after captain Alastair Cook (154no) and Michael Carberry (153no) had piled up 318 for none on day one.
After no play again on Friday, England’s opportunities to settle remaining selection issues and ensure appropriate match practice for Ashes contenders such as Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad and Kevin Pietersen have been compromised.
More rain is already forecast next week in Sydney, for the four-day match against an Australia Invitational XI, raising the prospect of an inadequate preparation for the tourists - despite their three scheduled warm-up fixtures.
While their Ashes rivals are all tuning up nicely in Sheffield Shield cricket - David Warner and Steve Smith both hit centuries for New South Wales against Victoria in Melbourne - England could have done without falling foul of the rain.
A stalemate in last week’s three-day match in Perth, where England’s seamers were rusty, and action in this second fixture for just two players so far is all they have to show for their early arrival down under as they bid to win a fourth successive Ashes series.
England batting coach Graham Gooch spoke of the “frustration” among players anxious to fine-tune preparations for the first Test in Brisbane in under two weeks’ time.
“I don’t think it’s the sort of climatic conditions we expect when you come to Australia,” he said.
“It’s always frustrating for cricketers. You want to get out there and play.
“You want to show what you can do and get your game in good order, with big matches coming up.
“I think a lot of them are sanguine about it, because they are used to it - but it is frustrating.”