Thursday 14 December 2017 / 01:55 AM

ASHES SECOND TEST PREVIEW

After a terrific 10-wicket victory over England at the Gabba to kick off the 2017/18 Test series, Australia now cast their eye on the Adelaide Oval, a venue which has seen many memorable Ashes moments occur.

The latest instalment of this great rivalry is history in the making, with a new chapter to be unveiled when the second clash is played with the pink ball under lights in the first ever day-night Ashes Test, which gets underway on Saturday afternoon.

Formerly seen as a flat and hard pitch where bowlers would struggle to snare wickets, the introduction of day-night Test cricket should help turn the Adelaide Oval into the fastest wicket in the country, and one where Australia’s and England’s pace attacks relish the conditions.

When using the pink ball in day-night Tests, the average first-innings total in Adelaide is just 230 – but that is from a small sample size of two Tests, which have only lasted three (v New Zealand, 2015/16) and four days (v South Africa, 2016/17) respectively.

UNDER THE PUMP

Usman Khawaja – Australia

A poor dismissal to Moeen Ali in the first innings at the Gabba saw the critics out in force regarding Khawaja’s perceived weakness against spin bowling and whether he is the right man to be Australia’s number three. Khawaja averages 32.82 against spin compared to 52.05 against pace, but he will find less spin and more movement off the seam in Adelaide.

Khawaja made a glorious 145 in last year’s day-night Test at against South Africa, and in early-2016 he scored 140 in Wellington against a strong New Zealand attack. That said, Khawaja has a poor record against England, averaging only 20.33 from five Tests.

Alastair Cook – England

Cook has been England’s talisman opener for the best part of a decade, but he has not had the best start to his Ashes campaign, notching up scores of two and seven in Brisbane. Now in his seventh Ashes campaign, Cook has been quite poor in every Ashes series excluding the extraordinary 2010-11 series, where he made three hundreds and averaged 127.66 from seven innings. Cook averages 37.96 overall in the Ashes but over a third of his 2,126 Ashes runs were made in one series, leaving 1,360 runs in the remaining six series where he averages only 27.76.

Cook heads to a venue where he has failed in four of his five Test innings (27, 13, 148, 3 and 1). The elegant left-handed opener is easily one of the finest batsmen that England has ever had (including holding the record for most centuries by an Englishman – 31) but if the former captain to set the record straight and enhance his legacy as one of the greats, he must have a successful 2017/18 Ashes.

WHAT EACH TEAM MUST DO IN ADELAIDE

Australia

The Aussies need a collective batting performance from its top order and not be so heavily reliant on captain Steve Smith. In three day-night Tests, David Warner has only made the 138 runs at 23. Australia’s vice captain needs to carry on from the unbeaten 87 he made in the second innings at the Gabba and bring that form to Adelaide.

If Australia can get a total above 250 in their first innings, that should be enough for its much-vaunted pace attack to blast the frail English line-up away and secure a sizeable first-innings lead.

England

Although it is only the second Test, the pressure is quickly mounting on the current holders of the Ashes. If they were to ease up the intensity and desire to fight it out – as they did in the first Test – they’ll quickly find themselves down 2-0. England’s batsmen must go on with making big scores, something it didn’t do in the first Test (James Vince’s first-innings 83 was the only individual score above 56) and they certainly have to put Australia under more pressure.

If they can obtain a first-innings lead in the day-night Test match – which they realistically should have done in Brisbane – they have a golden opportunity to square the series up 1-all.

This will be the seventh ever day-night Test match, the third played in Adelaide and the fourth overall in Australia. England, on the other hand, has only played one day-night Test – in August 2016 against the West Indies at Edgbaston. The experience of playing in these conditions will assist Australia greatly, but England know how fragile this Aussie line-up can be in bowler-friendly conditions. Many Australians’ shoulders slump when they recall being all out for 60 before lunch on day one at Trent Bridge in 2015 thanks to Stuart Broad’s 8-15, a collapse that virtually surrendered the Ashes.

PREDICTED XIs

Australia: Unchanged
England: In – Craig Overton, Out – Jake Ball

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Nick Galea

Sport is not something that Nick would describe as a simple pastime - he lives and breathes it. With a strong passion for cricket, football and AFL, Nick hopes to bring his analytical views and love of sport to Commentary Box Sports readers and give them a different perspective to the codes we all enjoy.

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