IAN CHAPPELL sorts the bowlers and the banter
THERE was no let-up in the argy bargy when Australia and England took the field for the 2nd Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval yesterday.
England unleashed a sizzling verbal assault on David Warner and Steve Smith as tensions reached boiling point.
Stuart Broad led the sustained sledging barrage, ripping into the Australian leadership as he followed through on pre-match threats to seek revenge over what the visitors view as mistreatment of Jonny Bairstow in Brisbane.
THE Adelaide day/night Test is a social occasion with wine and conversation flowing freely out back of the grandstand.
On the other side of the pavilion, however, it will be anything but a picnic, especially for the England team.
Australia’s short-pitched onslaught at the Gabba worked so successfully on England’s lower order batting that it could become a more widely used weapon for the rest of the series.
This has been hinted at by the reference to Adelaide Oval as “the fastest wicket around Australia at night”.
Considering this unlikely theme was promoted by the Australian coach Darren Lehmann, it could also be the classic double bluff — prepare the England batsmen for missiles whistling around their ears and then bombard them with swinging and seaming deliveries pitched on a fuller length.
Despite the conjecture over the mode of attack, a couple of things are certain.
The England lower order will receive a plethora of shortpitched deliveries and going by the adjudicating in the first Test, the willow wielders should not expect any protection from the umpires.
This does not bode well for England’s fast bowlers.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are reasonably comfortable against short-pitched deliveries and do not fear any threat of retaliation. Emboldened fast bowlers blessed with skill and menace are not a pleasant proposition.
Consequently, the England bowlers need to come up with a much improved plan when batting. Standing and defending the short-pitched delivery — no matter how tall you are — is not a viable long-term option in Australia.
There are two dangers. Firstly, when the ball climbs steeply it is impossible to control the shot and, secondly, there is a danger of a broken finger as the bowling hand is in the firing line.
The combination of a pink ball and playing under lights will suit England’s swing and seam attack.
However, the England batsmen have to confront the same testing conditions and a repeat of their Gabba performance, where they failed to convert starts into matchwinning scores will result in good bowling going to waste.
No matter how difficult the circumstances, the England fast bowlers, led by Chris Woakes, debutant Craig Overton and Stuart Broad, have to adopt a more aggressive approach to Australia’s shortpitched assault.
At the very least, some form of counter-attack may cause the Aussie pacemen to pitch even shorter and then batsmen could find the ball passing harmlessly to the keeper.
As if England does not have enough headaches on the field, the Ben Stokes saga has been further fuelled by his playing presence in New Zealand.
Despite the prospect of a Stokes appearance in the Ashes series dwindling, with the police referring the matter for charging advice, his pres- ence nearby is a distraction England could well do without coming on the heels of the Jonny Bairstow drama.
Australia must be careful if it intends using Stokes as the butt of on-field comments.
Firstly, any comments should attract the attention of the umpires and, secondly, the Aussies do not want to further arouse an England side already annoyed by some of the Australian antics in Brisbane.
That aside, the Aussies must have been looking forward to Adelaide Oval as eagerly as the lawn lounging revellers at the back of the grandstand.
Not only did Australia establish a psychological advan- tage through their fast bowlers but Steve Smith achieved the same with his resolute batting.
As desperately as the England fast bowlers need to find a solution with bat in hand, they are even more in need of a plan devised to dismiss the prolific Australian captain.
Adding to Smith’s dominance was the second innings revelation that the aggressive David Warner may have found the ideal opening partner in Cameron Bancroft.
Bancroft played much of his second innings knock to the soundtrack of the Barmy Army trumpeter playing the Simon and Garfunkel hit tune Mrs Robinson. This was a reference to Anne Bancroft, the actress who played Mrs Robinson in the film The Graduate.
The song became more relevant as Bancroft the cricketer quickly graduated from debutant to fully fledged Test opener. His calm presence helped solidify the Australian line-up.
The England batting, despite a couple of impressive Ashes debuts from Mark Stoneman and James Vince, has a fragile look. If the Australian bowlers can exploit this brittleness, it will be another reason for the Adelaide Oval punters to clink their glasses and celebrate, as victory would put England’s Ashes defence on a downhill slope to oblivion.
BOUNCER: Steve Smith exchanges words with England paceman Stuart Broad.