… and welcome to coverage of day one of the second Test at the Adelaide Oval, once one of the top three grounds on the Test circuit with its Bradman and Chappell stands, the spires of St Peter’s and the gorgeous walk there from the city centre, now a behemoth, an AFL ground with only a smidgen of the old charm. England have played 15 Tests there in the past 60 years, winning three – 1979, 1995 and 2011 – drawing four and losing eight, one of them, in 2006-07, the Test we never speak about, when they threw away a commanding position after superb innings from Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen to be diddled by Shane Warne on day five.
It’s difficult to be optimistic, though over the past 10 years they have confounded us before when all seemed lost on the road: at Colombo in 2012, at Mumbai and Kolkata the following winter, at Cape Town in 2020 and to go 1-0 up against India at Chennai in February (when all seemed lost before a ball had been bowled in the series). But these comebacks, fairly common after a cold start in home Tests, are sporadic on the road and seldom come in Australia. Morale boosting victories in 1994-95, 1998-99 and 2002-03 were achieved when the series was either lost or unwinnable, too much, too little, too late. We have to go back, as we were pondering last week, to Len Hutton and the 1954-55 tour for the type of turnaround that England need.
Is there anything in their favour? Well, in spite of Australia winning all eight of their day-night Tests at home and England losing all three of theirs – at Adelaide, Auckland and Ahmedabad (AAA is the cipher of the beast for Joe Root’s side) by massive margins (120 runs, an innings and 49 runs and 10 wickets respectively) – England seem pretty confident that they can fight back. They maintain that they are slow starters and toady, with a maiden Test in Australian conditions under the belts of Haseeb Hameed, Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Jack Leach, they are now fully acclimatised and ready.
Hope lies in the absence of Josh Hazlewood, in this writer’s opinion the best Test new-ball bowler around, some soreness affecting David Warner and what England managed to do to Marcus Harris, Steve Smith, Cameron Green and Alex Carey when they were batting. To have any realistic chance, though, they need to post a proper first innings score, whether batting first or second, and that means two substantial partnerships. They also need to field better – hold every chance, take every run-out opportunity (and there were almost half a dozen in Australia’s first innings) and squeeze in the infield to dry up the runs.
On the other hand Jhye Richardson could slot right back into the groove after two years out and England could rehabilitate the Test career of one of the batsmen whose cap is hanging on a shoogly peg as they have done in the past for Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin, Matthew Wade, the Marsh brothers, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson.
As ever watching England abroad it’s a voyage of discovery rather than belief as we head for the daylight, but then again, there’s always hope:
Star of faith the dark adorning,
All through the night;
Leads us fearless toward the morning,
All through the night.
Join us for the toss at 3.30am