The first Test in Brisbane threatened at several stages to be absolute classic. An unusual Gabba pitch kept the bowlers interested almost throughout and only one batsman was able to dominate in the match, Steve Smith.
Smith’s 141* was the difference between the sides. Whilst several England batsmen got starts throughout the match, none could kick on and make a decisive contribution. There appears little doubt that England’s bowling attack will have spent several long hours discussing how on earth they can remove Smith in the run up to the second Test here in Adelaide, for they tried almost everything in Brisbane.
This Test is something on an unknown, coming as it does under lights with a pink ball. Previous analysis of performances at the ground in contests between Australia and England are almost irrelevant. Yes, Australia have played some pink ball cricket here, but there isn’t enough statistical analysis available to paint a clear picture.
Australia coach, Darren Lehman has been talking Adelaide up as the quickest pitch in Australia. As the Aussies showed in the lead up to the first Test, all their talk should be taken with a pinch of salt and this is clearly another attempt at ruffling English feathers.
What we do know is that the pink ball should offer a bit more swing and seam to the quick bowlers. This, more than any other Test, is the one that will have the English bowlers licking their lips. Their first encounter with the pink ball saw them demolish the West Indies at Edgbaston earlier this year and Stuart Broad, chief destroyer that Test, will be looking for a repeat.
Whilst the English bowlers so rarely let their team down, the same cannot be said of the batsmen. They are making an uncomfortable habit of collapsing and that, ultimately, is what cost them in Brisbane.
They had the opportunity to post a formidable first innings total and failed. Second dig, they fell away alarmingly leaving Australia an eminently gettable total to chase.
Alastair Cook needs some runs and his first encounter with the pink ball resulted in a double century. He looks horribly out of touch at the moment, though. Joe Root, too, has made a nasty of habit of getting to 50 and getting out.
Consistently scoring 50 leaves you with a nice average, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression upon a series as it doesn’t win you games. Last winter he scored 50 after 50 in India whilst Virat Kohli totally dominated, cashing in every start that he made into a match winning contribution. What Smith did in Brisbane, Root failed to emulate.
Root is supported by encouraging performances from Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan, who started the series far better than many English supporters had hoped.
On the Australian side, Dave Warner found his stride in the second innings as he and debutant, Cameron Bancroft, eased their way into the series with a matching winning partnership. Smith showcased his class, but the door was very much ajar for England in Australia’s first innings.
A 10 wicket win papered over the cracks, but the hosts will look to be ruthless and they can’t be relying on Pat Cummins to help steer them towards victory with the bat.
Nathan Lyon should have less of an impact here in Adelaide, but as England’s quicks will be excited about having a bit more on offer, so will Australia’s. If it comes down to a battle of the batsmen, another comfortable home win appears to be in the offing. Should that happen, them this series could get very tough, very quickly, for England.
England have shown before that they can bounce back and Australia are capable, too, of oscillating wildly between the sublime and the ridiculous.
The bookmakers are favouring an Australia win, you can get 13/5 on an England victory in Adelaide with sport.netbet.co.uk, which shows that there isn’t much faith in the tourists turning around their fortunes.
There is just a feeling, however, that England can do this. This Test was identified a long way out as being their golden opportunity to build a platform upon which to win the Ashes. There is a lot of pride and experience in that dressing room and a few of them have a point to prove.
If England don’t do it now, then they never will. In the interests of the series, I’m predicting a narrow England win to reignite it. The alternative is another horrendously one-sided Ashes series Down Under.
By Miles Reucroft