England aim to overcome mounting distractions and save their Ashes campaign against Australia through their potent pace duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the day-night Adelaide Test starting Saturday (December 2).
Diverted by the Jonny Bairstow-headbutt incident on top on the festering Ben Stokes availability saga, the tourists cannot afford another defeat after their 10-wicket first Test mauling in Brisbane.
A win in Adelaide looks essential to England’s hopes of retaining the Ashes, especially with the third Test to follow at Perth’s WACA Ground, where they have not won since 1978.
Australia (final): David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.
England (from): Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jake Ball, Craig Overton.
Bairstow’s headbutt “greeting” of Cameron Bancroft at the outset of the tour in Perth is the latest self-inflicted wound, leading to a midnight curfew imposed on the squad by team management.
The first-ever Ashes Test under lights has long been earmarked as England’s best chance of a win in Australia given the extra swing and movement of the pink ball in the twilight conditions.
Anderson and Broad, with 899 Test wickets between them, will have to be on their game as England have not won or drawn a series in Australia after losing the first Test since 1954-55.
“We have a great opportunity in Adelaide to bounce back, the day-night Test match should suit our bowling attack and make sure we play as we did in Brisbane, but for longer periods of time,” said Joe Root, the England captain.
Australia have beaten New Zealand and South Africa in the two day-night Tests played in Adelaide, where the groundsman has to leave extra grass on the pitch to ensure the pink ball doesn’t quickly deteriorate which may suit the English seamers.
Glenn McGrath, the former Australian pacer, does see some hope for the beleaguered tourists.
“Jimmy Anderson, for one, will be in his element, Stuart Broad will get a bit of seam movement and if Chris Woakes will just pitch the ball up a little more then he could be dangerous,” said McGrath.
“More than anything I am desperate to win this series, as a batter I want to contribute heavily in this series. Individual stuff, I’ll worry about that when I’ve stopped playing, when I’m sat commentating on England teams of the future and I can tell everyone how good I was. For now, it’s just about doing everything I can to win this series, ultimately I’ve just got to do whatever I can to win games of cricket in the next four games. Personally, this would be the biggest achievement of my career so far.” – Joe Root
But Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, believes his team’s pace trio — Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins — will be equally effective. Hazlewood has been Australia’s most lethal bowler in the two pink-ball Tests in Adelaide with a total of 15 wickets.
“When the (Gabba) wicket quickened up we could go after them a bit harder,” said Lehmann. “That’s the blueprint, it’s no secret we’re going to attack their middle and lower order like that. Hopefully that success continues.”
Meanwhile, Trevor Bayliss, England’s coach, is expecting more from his batsmen after collapses in Brisbane.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been in this situation before over the last few years where we’ve put in a bad performance but we were able to come back from it and I don’t think it will be anything different on this occasion,”said Bayliss.
Yet again England’s big challenge will be to get Steven Smith out cheaply, after his man-of-the-match Gabba performance.
It was Smith’s Test-defining unbeaten 141 over eight-and-a-half hours that gave Australia a crucial 26-run first-innings lead and switched the momentum to the home side,
“The Adelaide wicket might bring some of the bowlers into the game a little bit but, having said that, it’s probably one of the quickest wickets in the country at night,” said Smith. “We saw how effective our bowlers could be when this wicket quickened up a little bit (in Brisbane), so that’s exciting.”