Ade­laide re­view

Chris Stocks and Alex Narey re­view the dam­age Down Un­der

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Stocks at the Ade­laide Oval

IN THE end, it’s the hope that kills you. As well as Eng­land played to get back into this Test match, ul­ti­mately, they will head to Perth 2-0 down af­ter be­ing well beaten yet again by Aus­tralia.

Per­haps in a par­al­lel uni­verse – where Eng­land’s bowlers pitched the ball fuller on the open­ing day – Joe Root’s team would have been chasing some­where closer to 250 rather than the tar­get of 354 they were even­tu­ally set.

That was al­ways go­ing to be a tough ask, es­pe­cially as it would have rep­re­sented the record suc­cess­ful chase in Eng­land’s Test his­tory and the high­est ever at the Ade­laide Oval.

Still, that tan­ta­lis­ing prospect still ex­isted head­ing into the fi­nal day, with Root still un­beaten at the crease on 67, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow to come and Eng­land need­ing 178 to win with six wick­ets in hand.

Steve Smith, Aus­tralia’s cap­tain per­haps haunted by his de­ci­sion not to en­force the fol­low-on, was ner­vous enough to ad­mit hav­ing to take a sleep­ing pill the night be­fore.

How­ever, the hosts – led by Josh Ha­zle­wood’s re­moval of night­watch­man Chris Woakes and Root within the first three overs of the day – wrapped up vic­tory in­side the first ses­sion.

Eng­land had fought back ad­mirably af­ter a largely ter­ri­ble first three days, mak­ing a game of it af­ter bowl­ing out Smith’s men in their sec­ond in­nings for 138 – Aus­tralia’s low­est to­tal at Ade­laide since 1955.

But they had left them­selves far too much to do af­ter al­low­ing Aus­tralia to pile up 442-8 de­clared in their first in­nings and con­ced­ing a deficit of 215 thanks to an­other limp col­lec­tive ef­fort with the bat.

Of course, af­ter win­ning the toss, Root plainly made the wrong de­ci­sion to bowl first in this maiden day-night Ashes Test.

Maybe things would have been dif­fer­ent had he cho­sen to bat in­stead.

Yet it’s also true that Aus­tralia prob­a­bly would have won this con­test in­side four days had Smith not re­fused to en­force the fol­low-on when Eng­land were there for the tak­ing on day three.

Moral vic­to­ries, if this can be cat­e­gorised as such, only get you so far. Cold, hard facts sug­gest this Eng­land team are well on their way to be­ing white­washed Down Un­der, just as their pre­de­ces­sors were in 2006-07 and 2013-14, un­less they raise their game sig­nif­i­cantly.

But Root, dropped for the fi­nal Test of that ill-fated Ashes tour four years ago, be­lieves his cur­rent squad are made of sterner stuff than that.

“I think we are play­ing bet­ter cricket this time around,” he said. “I don’t think we are as un­evenly matched as we were last time.

“The way we went about the sec­ond in­nings proved to ev­ery­one re­ally we are still mas­sively in this se­ries. It is as sim­ple as that.

“We have shown through­out the two games that for pe­ri­ods we can out­per­form Aus­tralia but just not for five days and that is

go­ing to be our chal­lenge.

“I thought we showed a lot of char­ac­ter, which is what you want to see in big se­ries like this. It is now about find­ing a way to do it over pe­ri­ods of time.”

What will worry Root most is the fact he was the only Eng­land player to pass fifty in this match. Ev­ery other bats­man – bar James Vince – made starts in at least one of the in­nings.

But no­body could im­pose them­selves on the game like Aus­tralia’s Shaun Marsh, whose first-in­nings 126 ul­ti­mately proved the dif­fer­ence be­tween the teams.

Eng­land needed Root to try to match that but he failed to con­vert a Test half-cen­tury for the 34th time.

Dawid Malan at least showed fight and char­ac­ter, as did opener Mark Stone­man.

But the in­flu­ence Nathan Lyon is hav­ing on this se­ries is dam­ag­ing the tourists badly, with the off-spin­ner tak­ing six wick­ets in this match, in­clud­ing Alas­tair Cook twice. Moeen has also been dis­missed by him four times in as many in­nings this se­ries.

There was, at least, pos­i­tive news in the form of Craig Over­ton’s promis­ing de­but and James An­der­son’s first five-wicket Test haul in Aus­tralia.

How­ever, nei­ther were enough to stop Eng­land pro­duc­ing yet an­other dis­ap­point­ing over­all per­for­mance that saw them slip to their sixth suc­ces­sive over­seas Test de­feat.

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Al­most done: Josh Ha­zle­wood cel­e­brates tak­ing the wicket of Joe Root of Eng­land dur­ing day five

Top knock: Shaun Marsh cel­e­brates his cen­tury

Got him: Craig Over­ton af­ter bowl­ing Steve Smith on day one

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