The 2nd of 5 Ashes tests will begin this Saturday, the 2nd of December with the home nation firmly in the driver’s seat to regain the world most famous trophy. Australia completed a 10 wicket win over England just 5 days ago and will have their eyes set on the same result again.
Adelaide has been a pleasant home for the Australian cricket team in recent years, losing just once since 2003. England will take some solace knowing that they were the ones to inflict this defeat in 2010. However fresher in their memories will be the crushing blow they suffered in 2013 at the hands of Mitchell Johnson and his thunderbolts. Australia will look to channel the spirit of that occasion, and I expect their tactics to be much the same as they were four years ago. Short Ball, short ball, short ball, yorker, short ball.
The so-called ‘unproven’ English batsman all performed adequately during the first test. All of Stoneman, Vince and Malan recorded a half-century in the first innings and looked to put England in a reasonably strong position. All 3 men looked at home out in the middle and played with patience that began to frustrate the Australian fast bowlers.
In the 2nd innings however they fell cheaply, Vince to a Hazlewood beauty and both Malan and Stoneman to Lyon rippers. While not much can be done to negate that sort of ball from Hazlewood, Stoneman and Malan will have to be more proactive while facing Lyon if they do not wish to suffer the same fate. In the first test, they looked to defend and hardly scored a run against the off-spinner. If they are to be successful in the 2nd test they can’t let Lyon dictate the terms and must look to put the pressure back on him with a few more boundaries early in his spell.
Is Cook cooked?
If the first test was your first cricket experience you would have been forgiven for thinking Stoneman was the hardened veteran opener, and Cook was unproven looking to cement his place. Cook looked fidgety and seemed to hit balls he didn’t have to. Unfortunately, this had him dismissed cheaply in both innings. Whilst at the other end Stoneman batted with Calmness and occupied the crease for an adequate amount of time to give his team a chance. If England are to have any chance in the 2nd test Cook will need to find some form and score big. As the senior man he knows this full well, and as the current leading run scorer in world cricket and England’s all-time leader, only a fool would doubt him.
Joe Root’s Captaincy
Root is still an inexperienced captain, but his proactive style during Australia’s first innings looked to have the measure. His field placing’s and bowling tactics were innovative and creative and had Australia’s back to the wall. However, as Steve Smith’s epic innings dragged on, Root seemed to run out of steam and fell into a more negative mindset. His short ball tactics looked to trouble the Australian captain very little, and he inexplicably neglected to bowl Anderson at the tail, later admitting this was a mistake. In the 2nd innings, it was almost as if he wasn’t even trying. Root will need to back himself and his innovative tactics in the 2nd test and try his absolute best to stick to the plan even if things are not working for his bowlers. Australia gained all the momentum and steamrolled England as soon as Root lost faith with his game plan. He can’t let this happen again
The Pink Ball
The Adelaide test will be the first ever Day/Night Ashes test, and with that brings a fresh challenge, The Pink Ball.
Much has been made about Mitchell Starc’s Pink ball prowess and rightly so, In the 5 innings he has bowled in at test level he has taken 16 wickets at 22.75, and his first-class record is even better. His pace and swing seem to suit the pink ball better than any other bowler in world cricket. James Anderson has a similarly impressive record with the pink ball, albeit from just the one test against the west indies. He took 5 for 46 during this match. The Sample size is small for both bowlers, but it would seem as though both teams have a man that thrives with the pink ball in hand. I would be hesitant to say that the pink ball by itself gives an advantage to Australia.
Smith’s Day/Night form
The cricketing world is beginning to run out of superlatives to describe Steve Smith. The best Batsman in the world has an imposing record in day/night test matches. In his 6 innings, he has posted scores of 130, 63, 59, 40, 53 and 14. Believe it or not, this is actually worse than his record in other test matches of late. Oh, dear England.
Game plans will have to be fresh, and bowlers will have to be very determined to deny Smith this time around.
Khawaja Needs to fire
Usman Khawaja is one of Australia’s classiest batsman yet a lot has been made of his record against spin bowling. The English press has gone as far as to dub him the ‘walking wicket’. While his struggles against spin are well documented, he actually has a strong record against spin on home soil. It will not be long after Khawaja comes to the crease before Moeen Ali is brought into the attack. We are all hoping his failure to spin in the first test was an anomaly.
Only time will tell if England have what it takes to level up the series. I expect both teams to go into the 2nd test unchanged and predict another strong win for the home side.