England’s struggles with the balls continued for a second Test in a row as Australia saw off the new ball with relative ease in the first ever Day-Night match in the Ashes. The hosts ended the day with 209/4, thanks to Usman Khawaja (53) David Warner (47), in a rain delayed day at the Adelaide Oval.
England get it horribly wrong at the toss
England came into the Test under huge amounts of pressure after succumbing to an embarrassing 10-wicket loss at the Gabba last week. Having played just one Day-Night Test before this one, it was a difficult decision to make for the Europeans. Things were complicated further when the numbers pertaining to toss decision were taken into account. No winning captain who had decided to bowl first at the Australian Oval have won the game since the great West Indian team of the 1981-82 season. On the contrary, the two matches that had been played in Adelaide the visiting captain had won the toss and elected to bat first. On both the occasions it had been the hosts who had come out on top at the end.
Geoffrey Boycott, in his pitch report, was adamant that the grass on the pitch could turn out to be deceitful and the overcast conditions might not help England like they would at home. So eventually when Root won the mini battle before the war, the Englishman decided to bowl first considering the conditions. In retrospect, Root appears to have taken the wrong call as it turns out now, apart from the small question of retaining the Ashes, he has the weight of history on his shoulders as well.
Can the real English bowlers please stand up?
Before the series, while there were some question marks regarding the bowling prowess of the Englishmen, it was their batting that was under huge scrutiny. But as the series is progressing, the fact that England are absolutely terrible in every department, is becoming blatantly obvious. With the new ball in hand, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with almost 900 Test wickets between team, looked more like domestic players playing against an international team. Their line and length was shambolic considering the stakes and it was compounded by Joe Root’s decision to bowl them from wrong ends.
With wind blowing the hat off Aleem Dar’s head, Root should ideally have used Anderson from an end where the wind could have helped him create more problems for the right hander by taking the ball away from him. Instead, the 35-year-old was asked to bowl against the wind. It resulted in the batsmen easily negotiating the early ball and as the first session progressed, it looked more and more like England could not get a wicket. It took a misfield and terrible decision making from Warner for England to get their first breakthrough. If Usman Khawaja, whose troubles with spin are well documented, can score a half century against you, it is a sign that you are in big big trouble.
Has the Smith conundrum been solved?
Steve Smith was unstoppable in the Gabba Test where his flawless innings of 141* setup the win for Australia and the biggest story after the first Test was whether England could find a solution to the Smith problem. In Brisbane, the English were guilty of bowling wide outside off stump and Smith was more than happy to let the ball go through to the keeper. He patiently judged the wicket and took his time before he decided to accelerate. Today, however, the English came in with a plan. They kept the ball on and about the off stump line making Smith play as many balls as possible.
To go along with that, Broad also made sure that he kept chirping in Smith’s ear right from the outset and it set the tone for rest of Smith’s innings. While the Aussie skipper played out most of his innings with the same resolve as in Gabba, he was undone by the same tactic as he misjudged the line on an Overton delivery. Whether or not it proves to be a lasting tactic remains to be seen, but if they can have better plans for all batsmen, England might have a chance of salvaging something down under.
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