Poms living on the sledge but can they walk the talk?
IS THERE anything more compelling than an Ashes series between two teams struggling to stand the sight of each other?
Ashes series in Australia often feature what you might call “the Sydney syndrome’’, where the teams reach the fifth and final Test full of aggravation because of a string of personal feuds accumulated in the previous four Tests.
This time the teams have reached the Sydney syndrome long before they have reached Sydney. In fact, after just six days of combat.
Headbutt allegations. Sledging. Mockery. Mental wars. It’s on. And it’s likely to be on all summer.
Steve Smith was welcomed to the crease by a verbal barrage which now seems part of England’s Plan A to unsettle him.
Stuart Broad stood in his path as he was crossing for a run and tormented him with verbal fire as well, prompting Smith to accentuate his quirky movements with extravagant flourishes like a batting break dancer.
England certainly stirred him up but the aggravation seemed to put an electric edge on his reflexes.
Earlier, David Warner copped it following his brain explosion which led to Cameron Bancroft’s run-out.
The question for England is whether the sledging caper is really their game. And how long can they sustain it?
Australia may well win the sledging war – they normally do in Australia – but the greater test of England’s mettle is whether they can be so bold overseas where they have won just eight of their past 30 Tests.
England captain Joe Root, under heavy fire for bowling first, is an interesting study.
Field placings branded negative, an off-spinner with a crook finger, a banned player proving a daily distraction, a headbutt controversy, sledging wars, and yesterday the biggest gamble of his young captaincy career when he bowled first.
Adelaide has been a batfirst venue since Adam bowled off his long run in the Garden of Eden. When you play four quicks and an injured spinner you may understand him wanting to snatch an edge in the first innings.
But Root did not sound like a cavalier rattling his sabre at the toss when he explained that it might give England the chance at using two new balls in bowler-friendly conditions.
If you bowl first and you are still bowling by the second ball, the move has failed.
Bowling first sentenced England to the long road home.
It also put pressure on their bowlers, who initially had their radars scrambled by the weight of increased expectation.
England paceman Craig Overton watches Steve Smith as he runs between the wickets. Overton later dismissed the Australian captain