England face an uphill battle to retain the Ashes after defeat in Adelaide left them 2-0 down against Australia with just three matches remaining.
Ed Kemp of Wisden.com considers what we learned from the second Test, and if there is any hope at all for Joe Root’s men in Perth.
England have themselves to blame
Joe Root’s team might well stare glumly at that 2-0 scoreline and wonder how on earth they are going to get back into the series.
And they can take grim comfort from the galling admission that their failure in Adelaide was to a fair extent their own doing.
That they conceded a 215-run first-innings deficit wasn’t down solely to the brilliance of the Australians: England had bowled poorly on the first day before Australia amassed 442-8 declared and when their turn to bat came around the tourists were, more than anything, the victims of their own poor shot selection.
Australia’s fallability was highlighted by their collapse in the second innings and their panic in the field on the fourth afternoon, but by then the game was too far gone.
Too late though it may now be, at the very least England have proved to themselves that when they play properly they can have the better of the Australians.
You can get under Steve Smith’s skin
Historic win or no historic win, for a time England had Australia captain Steve Smith feeling the pressure during the second Test – both with the bat and in the field.
After all the talk of which he’d been a part until then, he seemed unsettled by the chirp and intent of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the first innings.
Batting under lights against a fairly new ball he looked similarly out of sorts in the second innings and managed a match tally of 46 – far below his exceptionally high standards.
He’s also received a huge amount of criticism for his unilateral decision to not enforce the follow-on (one that Australia’s bowling coach David Saker now says was a mistake), before having a nightmare with the DRS.
He blew Australia’s only two reviews of the innings with two incorrect challenges in the space of three deliveries on the fourth day.
To add further pain, he dropped a catch at slip off Nathan Lyon and became visibly aggravated with himself and his bowlers out in the middle.
All that was forgotten, of course, as Australia cantered to a 120-run win on the final day. But as Michael Vaughan pointed out before the series started, “you can get Smith flapping” – and, for a while at least, England did.
Bairstow is batting too low down
Jonny Bairstow is undeniably one of England’s best four available batsmen (alongside Joe Root, Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali), and in a team with an at best inconsistent and often fragile batting line-up, No.7 is too low for him to be batting.
After the use of a nightwatchman in the second innings at Adelaide, he ended up at No.8. That, all the more so in the absence of Ben Stokes, is a waste of his abilities.
Whether it involves bringing in Ben Foakes to keep wicket to allow Bairstow the breather he requires to bat in the top five, or whether it’s a simple re-jig of the order, it’s hard to deny that the tourists would look a better team with their best players higher up the order.
The Barmy Army are still excellent value
As if we needed a reminder – they’ll always find something or someone to sing for. With Australia’s reviews gone on day four, they had no recourse after a big appeal from Lyon against Root was turned down. And didn’t the Barmy Army know about it…
Day/night cricket can be absolutely brilliant
Another day/night Test in Adelaide – keen to make itself the spiritual home of the format – has been a triumph. Creating new tactical considerations and ensuring the bowlers are never far from the game, it has elevated Test cricket rather than cheapen it.
The evening sessions have provided a superb test of batsmen’s skills and drawn huge interest for viewers at home and in the ground itself – which has enjoyed a record attendance.
The durability, visibility or otherwise of the pink ball has barely been discussed, either, which suggests Kookaburra have developed a ball that is doing its job – at least for now.
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