Thursday 22 February 2018 / 06:27 AM


This time in Ashes to Ashes: Joe Root’s decision to bowl first blows up in his face, Shaun Marsh locks down his position, Australia’s tail-wag hurts England, and Steve Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on almost comes back to haunt him.

Australia won the second Test at Adelaide Oval – a historic day-night affair – by an ultimately comfortable 120 runs, but there were some nervous moments after amassing a 215-run first-innings lead and ignoring the follow-on option. The hosts were rolled for just 138 in their second dig to leave England with a gettable target of 354.

But after grittily negotiating their way to 4/176 at stumps on Day 4, the tourists crumbled to be 233 all out on an anti-climatic final day as Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon went to work.

Bowling first backfires for Root

England captain Joe Root raised a few eyebrows on the first day in Adelaide, electing to bowl first in overcast conditions. While he had the right idea of being proactive in taking a risk with the pink ball early, his side’s bowlers couldn’t back it up, with their lengths too short when conditions suited them.

The wicket didn’t end up being as bowler-friendly as first thought after that, as Australia were able to see off the new ball – even with a rain delay. Australia eventually ended up on 8/442 declared on the second evening.

It was an embarrassing outcome, given Root won the toss, and will go down in Ashes folklore as one of those infamous captaincy moments that will be remembered for years to come.

Marsh finally goes on with it

It was nearly a case of déjà vu for Shaun Marsh when he walked out to bat in the first innings; with Australia in trouble at 161-4 under lights, a similar scenario to the first innings in Brisbane. This time, however, Marsh was able to see off all challenges – and had a slice of luck when he successfully challenged an lbw decision, to make a sparkling 126 not out.

It was a typical Marsh innings – lots of cover drives, flat-bat shots and little flicks. You couldn’t wipe the pure delight off his face when he saluted the crowd during the afternoon of the second session after scoring his fifth Test century.

After passing 100, Marsh was able to play with more freedom as Australia went chasing quick runs. This innings is enough to secure his place in the side for the remaining three Tests, despite only making 19 in his side’s dismal second innings.

Tail wagging becomes a sore point for England

A familiar story is starting to unfold for England, with Australia’s tail getting them out of trouble once again. After adding 126 runs with the last four wickets to finish up with 332 in Brisbane, Australia managed 148 for the last three wickets with a declaration in Adelaide. In the second innings, Australia added 63 for their last four wickets. Pat Cummins averaging 48.5 at No.9 or 10 has certainly been a big factor.

England managed 53 and 40 runs after going six down in Brisbane, while in Adelaide they did slightly better with 95 and 56 runs – but the lower-order batting has been a clear advantage for the Aussies.

England’s attitude with the ball when bowling with Australia six wickets down this series so far hasn’t been the best. They’ve been getting frustrated and responded by banging it in short and not being proactive as a fielding unit. This was a familiar story in the 5-0 whitewash back in 2013/14, and it is an area England need to improve on quickly.

Smith non follow-on frustrates Australia

When Australia had England all out for 227 in the first innings with the lights starting to come into play on day three, Smith elected not to enforce the follow-on. Instead, he sent his side in to bat against James Anderson and co.

This didn’t exactly go to plan for Smith as his side slumped to 4/53 at stumps after facing a tough session against the swinging ball. England were back in the game again and Smith missed out on a great opportunity to keep the foot on England’s throat, given they would have had to face the new ball under lights with the top-order low on confidence.

Instead, England had a sniff of victory at stumps on day four. Thankfully for Smith, his bowlers got the job done on Tuesday. But England have shown that they can get on top of Australia and frustrate them for long periods – and it’s the last session on Day 3 and their excellent all-round efforts on Day 4 that they need to harness for the remainder of the series if they’re to be any chance of retaining the Ashes.

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Brett Sinclair

Sport has always been a big passion in Brett's life and he aims to share his vision with Commentary Box Sports' readers. Based in Melbourne, Brett covers AFL, NRL, cricket and football for CBS.

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