THE first punches have been thrown and, as England prepare to start the second Ashes Test tonight, it is Australia who are reeling from some body blows to their confidence.
The Aussies are used to starting with a win and got themselves in a great position at the Gabba. England will have been disappointed not to be batting on the second day and were, frankly, staring down the barrel.
But the way they came back, led by Alastair Cook, was sensational. For Australia it was a massive kick in the teeth; for England, it was an outcome that will galvanise the dressing room.
It confirms what they believed: that they can do this. They now know that if they find themselves in trouble they are capable of getting 500-1 to dig their way out of it again.
Australia have major worries in their attack, which proved toothless in the second innings. They could make changes but just don’t have bowlers who will scare England.
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Andrew Strauss did a reasonable job in the first Test. He made the right calls, but sometimes you come up against a great partnership, as he did in Hussey and Haddin. Perhaps he could have tried something funkier with his fielding positions after England’s attack had failed to dislodge them for a while, but he didn’t do much wrong. I might have left the Aussies in the field for another half hour, but he got the timing of the declaration about right.
PLAYING IN AUSTRALIA
The very fact that England managed to turn a losing position into a very creditable draw shows how well they have adapted to both conditions and a hostile environment. After the way the first day went they did so well to not let it cost them, because it was looking precarious. The second Test will be completey different. Adelaide might spin and won’t be as flat and hard a wicket as Brisbane, so an extra bowler is an option.
The only things England could improve on in the second Test are being more ruthless when we start to make a dent in their order, and batting better in their own first innings. As it was, they stepped up to the plate in the most impressive manner possible, refusing to let their heads drop or become dispirited. Now all the England players have got into the Ashes their performances are likely to be even more accomplished.
England made a nervous start in Brisbane, did not bat well, with Andrew Strauss going third ball, and were all out far quicker than they’d have expected in the first innings. But they learned from their mistakes and responded in superb fashion in the second innings. Strauss recovered brilliantly and was decisive and committed and Trott was magnificent, but the man who stood out was Alastair Cook (right). He’d had lots of criticism and the Aussies had targeted him as a weak link, but he slammed the door on them. He had to be defiant and resilient and he did it in spades: his 235 not out was just what was needed.
England should be cheered they got themselves in a good position in the first innings, with Australia at around 150-5 before Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin’s heroic stand. Steven Finn showed his promise with six wickets, while the other guys started to get going. The only slight negative was Graeme Swann, who was quieter than we expected, but he’ll come on in Adelaide. England could play another bowler – Tim Bresnan or another spinner in Monty Panesar for Paul Collingwood – but I think they’ll stick with a successful formula.
THE ALL-ROUNDER | CONDITIONS, STATS AND BANTER
Pity the bowlers. After toiling in Brisbane, Adelaide looks likely to live up to its reputation as being a batsman’s paradise.
STATS OF THE DAY
It’s a tough ask to dig out a bowler friendly Adelaide related stat, but we’ve found something that might give Graeme Swann some cheer. There have been 13 five-wicket hauls in the last decade and over half of them have gone to spinners. Shane Warne, a freak of nature admittedly, took 30 wickets in the last five years here. Moreover, despite an average first innings score of 416 over the last 10 Tests, there have only been two draws.
“What should a groundsman make sure he does two days out from a Test match? Cover the nets when it rains maybe? Pathetic.” Kevin Pietersen, we think, isn’t too happy with the Adelaide ground staff. We assume nobody under the age of 10 reads these pages, so we’ve removed the 13 exclamation marks KP used for extra emphasis.
“He told me you had to bite on a towel when you put it on because it was agony.” Stuart Broad says Ian Botham’s cure for blisters – surgical spirit if you’re interested ?– smarts just a tad.