After a fantastic win for Australia in the first Ashes test, attention now turns to the Adelaide Oval and towards what is likely to be another frenetic game of cricket.
England were as poor as Australia were excellent in Brisbane, and Alastair Cook’s men will be desperate to avoid another poor performance with the coveted prize of the Ashes at stake. A loss for Andy Flower’s men in Adelaide would leave England a mountain to climb, and with the Australian batting and bowling performance much improved from the summer, you’d have to say that another win for Australia would give them an insurmountable lead on home turf.
Different pitch = different game at Adelaide
One of the main talking points of the first test in Brisbane was the superb bowling of Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson. Despite his struggles in the past, Johnson was in fantastic form at the Gabba, finishing with 9 wickets for only 103 runs. The English batsmen simply failed to cope with Johnson’s aggressive left-arm deliveries, but will be consoled somewhat by the knowledge that the Adelaide pitch is likely to provide less bounce for the Aussie strike bowler to feed off.
The pitch at the Oval is a drop-in one and is predicted to be far slower, which is likely to prevent Johnson from getting the bounce he needs to really ruffle English feathers. With that in mind, spin and reverse swing are likely to be far more useful in Adelaide; which could well play into England’s hands given that they have one of the world’s best reverse swing bowlers in James Anderson.
One thing’s for sure, wickets will be harder to come by in Adelaide, and whichever team wins the toss would be wise to bat and post a big total to defend and put themselves in control of the game.
The talk is that England are looking at the possibility of playing two spinners with Monty Panesar mooted to come in to replace Chris Tremlett as the fourth bowler. This indicates that England may see spin as a way to win the game, and with that in mind, it will be intriguing to see the battle between Nathan Lyon and the English spin duo Panesar and Graeme Swann.
Will the sledging continue?
It truly was a tremendous performance from Australia at the Gabba, but there were a number of subplots unearthed in Brisbane that have perhaps taken the gloss off the win somewhat.
As any cricket fan knows, when on the field there is very little love lost between these two sides, and this certainly showed in the last test, with a great deal of sledging taking place during the game. One particular incident saw Australian captain Michael Clarke fined 20% of his Brisbane match fee after telling James Anderson (who was batting) to get ready for a “broken arm”; whilst a furore developed over David Warner’s treatment of Jonathan Trott, the England number-three who has now left the tour.
There have been calls for the sledging to cease, but players from both sides have roundly rebuffed these calls. Almost every player asked about the appropriateness of sledging in the sport has made the point that it is a part of the game, always has been and always will be.
With that in mind, we can expect to see a similar level of needle between the two sides, and rightly so. After all, this is the Ashes – one of the most captivating sporting contests on the planet, and if the players are not passionate enough to look to gain any possible advantage then perhaps they shouldn’t be playing. Sledging should only be an issue when it starts to get too personal and isn’t left on the field, and if the English and Australian cricketers are not concerned with the level of sledging they’ve received then I really don’t think the media or fans should be either.
Who bats at three for England?
As has been widely covered in the last week, Jonathan Trott left the Ashes tour following the defeat in Brisbane; citing a stress-related condition that meant he was no longer able to represent the side in the competition. There’s no doubt that everyone in cricket wishes the England batsmen all the very best.
However, the compelling thing now is the question of who will replace Trott: firstly in the team, and secondly in the crucial role of the number three batsman. Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes are the three mooted replacements for Trott; but none of these players will be a straight swap for the South-African born batsman.
One might think that the logical thing for England to do would be to shift Kevin Pietersen up the order, but the attacking batsman is not a fan of the number three position; and given his ability to win matches, it is thought to be better to allow him to play where he feels most comfortable. This leaves Joe Root and Ian Bell as the likely candidates for the number three role. It is felt that as Joe Root is an experienced opener it may be more sensible to give Root the nod at three; leaving Bell to look after the middle order and provide some much needed stability.
Nullifying Kevin Pietersen could be the key to Aussie glory
In the last two Ashes test in Adelaide, Kevin Pietersen has scored centuries, and Australia’s ability to thwart the threat of the powerful 33-year old could be the difference between the series being levelled and Australia adding to their advantage.
When Pietersen last played an Ashes test in Adelaide he scored 227 and clinched the wicket of Michael Clarke in a landslide victory for England and Darren Lehmann’s side will be very keen to avoid a repeat of that performance.
Michael Clarke planned particularly well for Pietersen at the Gabba; bringing on Mitchell Johnson to get the ball up high and tempt the Pietersen hook, with the end result being a hole-out to deep square leg for the aggressive batsman. It will be intriguing to see whether Australia adopt a similar approach on a pitch with less bounce; as if you bowl bounce to Pietersen on a slow pitch, the chances are that he’s going to knock you to the boundary.
Australia are the favourites but all could change on an unpredictable pitch
One of the best things about Ashes cricket in the last 10 years is that both teams have the chance to win games. Australia fully deserved to win at the Gabba, and rightly head into the second test as clear favourites; but they will have to be wary of the threats posed by English bowlers James Anderson and Graeme Swann on a pitch that has potential to reward the swingers and spinners.
One thing’s for sure though, if England bat as they did in Brisbane they will lose, and Graham Gooch will be hoping that the week off has given his batsmen time to get their house in order. Otherwise, this Ashes series could be almost over before it’s really begun.