About the Match
A hard fought first Ashes test saw England start out well, have the Aussies in a difficult position only to give away that advantage and be beaten by 10 wickets in the end. It was almost surreal in the manner that the test match accelerated and just blew England away. Australia maintained its supreme record at the Gabba and now goes into the first ever Ashes test with a 1-0 cushion.
Can England fight back to parity in Adelaide or has Australia punched the contest out of them? Are there any selection surprises in store from both teams? Can Ben Stokes, who is now in New Zealand, be flown in to give Australia hell?
The hosts talked the talk before the test match and then almost didn’t walk the walk. They put in a tame bowling performance on the first day as England made them graft and threatened to collapse in their own first innings.
Brilliant performances from Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon kept them in the match before England imploded in the second innings and handed the match to Australia.
While the win should please Australia and its supporters, it should make them pause for concern. The struggles were unexpected and an England side that was unfancied made them sweat. All of this happened when the conditions were at their most ‘Australia’.
Looking ahead to Adelaide and the day-night contest with the pink ball, things could get much more difficult for the Aussies. Their batsmen will now have to face England bowlers who are expected to get swing and suddenly their lack of extreme pace will not matter.
Can Warner, Bancroft, and Khawaja see off the new ball challenge to keep the middle order away from harm’s way? The pink ball also faces another challenge during the time when the lights come on and it suddenly seems to start doing much more again.
That is the time when test matches can turn around in a session and where Australia’s batting will have to stand up.
We are not convinced about this batting lineup and really believe that England can break it open with a few good sessions. There are two players that they have to worry about in Warner and Smith, especially the latter, to take a hold of this test match and currently no one in the world seems to know how to get Smith out.
His average is now just about 70 in all tests at home, something that is staggering to even consider. With 22 hundreds from 57 tests already, Steve Smith is currently the best test batsman in the world.
Australia has kept its cards close when it comes to deciding on its bowling attack for this test as well. There is a large likelihood of Chadd Sayers making his debut after a string of brilliant performances in the domestic circuit. The fact that he swings the ball around corners and has taken close to 40 wickets in five wickets at Adelaide should help ‘swing; things in his favor. He and Hazelwood could make for a deadly combination backed by the in-form Lyon and the brutal Starc.
Australia may have fallibilities in the batting department but its bowling looks rock solid at the moment.
A lot of the good work done by England will be forgotten in the wake of their second innings collapse. James Vince played a gutsy innings of 83, Dawid Malan and Mark Stoneman got fifties, and the bowlers then reduced Australia to 76 for 4 before Steve Smith took over.
Some daft shots in the second innings and an inability of players to convert the fifties into big scores cost England heavily. Their bowling also looked extremely non-threatening in the second inning but that could be because they felt the match had been completely lost.
We really feel that the England coach needs to give his players a strong talking to and get them to fight back aggressively. Australia has been sledging them on the field and seemed to get in Bairstow’s headspace very effectively.
Joe Root and his boys must fight back otherwise this tour is as good as over.
Adelaide, we believe, provides them the best chance to make a comeback into this series. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Chris Woakes are all exceptional with the moving ball. Moeen Ali was very poor in the first test and must learn from Lyon about the number of revs to put on his deliveries as well as the pace to bowl at.
Jake Ball had a couple of good spells where he troubled the batsmen but we have a feeling we may see him lose out to Mark Wood by the next test if he does not get his act together.
England has the batting to be able to put up the runs in Australia and they have the bowling to really wreak havoc in swinging conditions at the Adelaide Oval. The only question is whether they have the belief and the courage to take a real swing at Australia.
We would back Stoneman as the players to score the most runs for England even though he will be facing up to the new ball in tough conditions. James Vince has only scored one fifty in his career and has not yet proved himself as being consistent enough for test cricket. Joe Root scored a fifty in the second innings to hit some form but he looks strangely subdued and we wonder about his mind frame at this point in time.
The wildcard in the England team has to be one of Jonny Bairstow or Moeen Ali. These two need to play freely and take the attack to the Aussies for England to have a chance. We think one or both of them could make the difference in this test.
Pitch and Conditions
There is some rain around and we are likely to see some interruptions throughout the test match. It will also mean that the moisture on the pitch should continue to offer assistance to the seamers during most times in the day and offer a tantalizing contest between the bat and ball.
The pitch will offer something for everyone including the batsmen and the spinners but it is likely at no time to be completely dominated by one discipline, which is how a good test wicket should be.
Australia has now won three out of the last five matches played between the two sides. If we count just Australia then the home side has won the last eleven test matches in a row. Having won the first test, Australia will definitely go in with their tails high but the conditions are going to favor England more than anyplace else on the tour.
We are backing the underdog here and backing England to win