Hope for rest of the series
destabilised by a pair of veteran bowlers was entertaining enough in itself. But would it really yield results? At the crease, Smith was more agitated than before, more twitchy. Balls that were routinely dealt with in Brisbane were causing him trouble here. He went for 40 first time round, then took the decision Swann claims was based on ego. Resting his bowlers was surely part of Smith’s rationale, but in sending Australia in on Monday night he exposed his batsmen to the greatest threat: an evening session under the lights.
Australia were woeful in their second innings, which should provide encouragement for England in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. All 11 batsmen scored 20 runs or fewer. Australia were in two minds between wanting to stay at the crease for long enough to make an England victory impossible and racking up a huge lead quickly. In the event they did neither, and so opened the door a crack to England, who were invited to make the 10th highest successful Test run chase of all time.
With his over-confidence coming back to bite him, Smith found himself in a desperate quest to stop England pulling off one of the great Test wins. Both captains gave each other an early Christmas gift in Adelaide. Root gave Australia a chance to bat first in the match – then watched as his bowlers bowled too short – and Smith threw his batsmen into the darkness when England’s morale was on the floor.
From there, Anderson found his zip and thrust again to record his first five-wicket haul in Australia, and Root stepped up to lead England’s counter-attack with 67 unbeaten at close of play. Not only that: several of Australia’s batsmen now seem unthreatening: Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb among them. David Warner, meanwhile, lacked the application that Smith required of him after his breezy 87 not out at the Gabba.
Not even the most partisan home fan could say that this Australia side are as imposing as the great teams of recent history. In the press area here, you can pass Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne before watching Khawaja or Handscomb bat.
Root will feel he regained ground on his counterpart but Smith, with these lessons learned, will surely come again.
Passion play: Steve Smith shows his emotion (left) and the Barmy Army taunt him over his DRS mistakes (above)