The Ashes 2nd Test

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/AFP
Mitchell Johnson bagged nine wickets in the first Test. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/AFP
England isn’t the first team to struggle with the bouncy Australian decks at the start of a vist, but few visitors with the credentials of this season’s tourists have succumbed as meekly as Alastair Cook’s men did in the first Ashes Test at the ‘Gabba last week. In a comfortable position at 0/28 after dismissing Australia for a sub-standard 295 in the first innings of the match, England crumbled posting totals of 136 and 179 against a hostile attack. It was the fifth straight time this team has failed to reach 200 in the first innings of the first Test on an overseas tour, but the second innings effort was perhaps more disappointing, given the benign nature of the pitch by that stage of the game.

James Anderson probably did well not to cop a broken arm as a result of facing Mitchell Johnson’s thunderbolts, but the left-armer will probably have to work far harder for his wickets when the teams face off again at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval on Thursday. In past seasons, the wicket in Adelaide has been a batsman’s paradise early on, before drying out to give spinners plenty to work with on days four and five, while exponents of reverse swing have also benefited from the abrasive nature of the surface as it wears. What has happened in the past can almost be thrown out the window, as a drop-in pitch will be used at the venue for the first time. In two Sheffield Shield matches this season just 55 wickets have been taken while 2523 runs were scored, with both matches ending in a draw . In saying that, towards the end of the South Australia vs Tasmania clash, James Faulkner – 12th man for Australia in the opening Test – did get the ball to reverse appreciably on the final day, and you can expect even more of that in a five-day game.

Despite its reputation as a road to bat on, there have been just three draws in the past 15 Tests at the ground. Australia and South Africa played out a draw there last season, but the hosts were only two wickets away from victory after failing to bowl the Proteas out in 148 overs in their second dig. Michael Clarke cracked 230 in the first innings of that Test while David Warner also posted a ton; both were century-makers in the first Test in Brisbane so they should come in to this chock-full of confidence. Clarke appeared to roll his ankle at training early in the week but appears in no doubt for the match.

With Jonathan Trott heading home to deal with personal issues, it looks as though Joe Root will move up to No. 3 in the order for England. Cook and Kevin Pietersen both tucked in to some ordinary Australian bowling last time they played in the City of Churches as the visitors won by an innings and 71 runs. England’s walking ego, Pietersen has scored 158 and 227 in his two Tests at the venue. Skipper Cook, though, was the only batsman to dig in throughout England second innings collapse in Brisbane, but it must be a concern that the 65 he made there is his highest score against Australia in the six Ashes Tests so far this year.

Graeme Swann was carted to all parts of the Brisbane Cricket Ground taking 2/215 across both innings. He’s not the first top-line off-spinner to come away from the ‘Gabba with his tail between his legs, although he was shown up by underrated Aussie finger-spinner Nathan Lyon who picked up a very handy four poles for the match at around two runs per over. Swann picked up seven for the match in Adelaide when the teams met there in the 2010-11 series, and his five-wicket haul in the second dig remains his only five-for Down Under. Tim Bresnan has recovered from a stress fracture of the back and looks set to come in to the XI in place of Chris Tremlett , who was well down on pace in the first Test. 

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