Pringle: Ade­laide Test is must-win for Three Lions

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - DEREK PRINGLE

Think Pink was the 1970 al­bum by Twink, one time drum­mer for Hawk­wind and the Pretty Things.Yet, cricket his­tory sug­gests that Eng­land must do the same this win­ter if they are to boost their chances of re­tain­ing the Ashes.

True, the day/night Test in Ade­laide us­ing pink cricket balls will be an Ashes first for them, but it also presents their best op­por­tu­nity of win­ning one of the first three Tests, the other two be­ing venues at which Eng­land have not pre­vailed for decades.

James Joyce once said that his­tory was “a night­mare from which he was try­ing to awake”, and so it is with Eng­land’s crick­eters and Test matches at the Gabba and WACA, the two Tests that sand­wich the Ade­laide Test be­fore the se­ries heads for the fes­tive sea­son venues of Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

Their last win at the Gabba was in 1986/7 while their lone vic­tory in Perth, where re­sides the quick­est, boun­ci­est pitch on earth, was in 1978/9, against an Aus­tralian side se­verely weak­ened by de­fec­tions to Kerry Packer’s World Se­ries.

You can never say never in sport, and Joe Root’s team may well tri­umph at those two grounds this time. But if I was coach Trevor Bayliss, I’d be tar­get­ing Ade­laide and the day/night Test with spe­cial mea­sures, as one Eng­land must win de­spite Aus­tralia suc­cesses in the two matches al­ready played there.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Ade­laide usu­ally pro­duced a fairly docile pitch of­fer­ing lit­tle to bowlers of any per­sua­sion. Since the en­clos­ing stands were built, the ball has swung more than be­fore, though this is rel­a­tive as Kook­aburra balls don’t hoop around for long.

Yet, all those per­ceived wis­doms have changed since it first held day/night Tests two years ago. To sup­port the con­fec­tion, as well as the pink­ness of the ball, ex­tra grass was left on the pitch. As a re­sult, wick­ets tum­bled, most of them to seam. In the­ory, this should help Eng­land whose best bowlers, James An­der­son, Stu­art Broad and Chris Woakes, are all fine pro­po­nents of seam up.

A break­down of the fig­ures is re­veal­ing. In the first ‘Pink’ Test, against New Zealand in 2015, New Zealand’s seam bowlers took 12 of the 17 Aus­tralian wick­ets to fall in a low-scor­ing match the Aussies won by three wick­ets. Across the two New Zealand in­nings, the fig­ure was 17 out of 20 wick­ets to the seam­ers. Dis­count­ing the run-out, which was not con­di­tions driven, 81 per cent of the wick­ets in the match fell to pace.

In the day/night match there against South Africa a year ago, a higher scor­ing af­fair that Steve Smith’s Aus­tralia won by seven wick­ets, that fig­ure was 80 per cent – a fig­ure closer to that achieved at English Test venues rather than Aus­tralian ones.

The other in­ter­est­ing met­ric is the amount of those seamer dis­missals which fell to catches – 17 in the Test against South Africa, 19 in the one against New Zealand. Get­ting edges to carry used to be a prob­lem in the past at Ade­laide, es­pe­cially once the ball got old.Yet the pink ball, with its tougher,

Eng­land sup­port­ers will make up a fair pro­por­tion of the crowd, ex­pect­ing, as I do, Root’s team to notch a pre­cious and vi­tal win

poly­mer coat, as well as the grassier pitches, de­lib­er­ately pro­duced to pre­serve its colour, means it now car­ries through bet­ter and for longer at Ade­laide than used to be the case in the day­light Tests of yore.

Hav­ing played three pink-ball Tests to Eng­land’s one, the lat­ter a brief, un­re­veal­ing af­fair at Edg­bas­ton against the West Indies, Aus­tralia do have the slight ad­van­tage of know­ing what to ex­pect. Eng­land do have a day/night match at the Ade­laide Oval against a Cricket Aus­tralian XI on Novem­ber 8, of which not a minute must be wasted.

An Eng­land win will not be a shoo-in. If once you could be con­fi­dent that Eng­land’s bats­men would cope bet­ter than the Aussies on sur­faces of­fer­ing side­ways move­ment, their woe­ful bat­ting against South Africa’s Ver­non Phi­lan­der last sum­mer sug­gests oth­er­wise. They will be in the game, though, some­thing they weren’t dur­ing the last white­wash.

Run-mak­ing, while ob­vi­ously more dif­fi­cult than usual, is not im­pos­si­ble. Al­though the fact that only three bats­men passed fifty in the first ‘Pink’ Test will give many col­ly­wob­bles, three did make hun­dreds in the sec­ond one, two of them open­ing bats­men. Gritty in­nings, how­ever, some­thing one of the cen­tu­ri­ons Faf du Plessis spe­cialises in, seem to be what are re­quired.

One def­i­nite way the day/night Test should help Eng­land is with the cooler tem­per­a­tures night tends to bring. Re­cently, Mark Butcher talked of the Ade­laide Test of 1998/9, when tem­per­a­tures soared well above 100F. “It was so hot my eye­balls hurt,” he said re­cently. Need­less to say, Eng­land were floored by the heat as well as a ram­pant Aussie side and lost by 205 runs.

The cooler evening clearly plays well with fans. In last year’s match against South Africa, 125,993 watched four days play, a venue record. This year, Eng­land sup­port­ers will make up a fair pro­por­tion of the crowd, ex­pect­ing, as I do, Root’s team to notch a pre­cious and vi­tal win.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Pink prac­tice: Eng­land’s sole day/night Test was against West Indies this sum­mer

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