By Ian Chappell, Daily Telegraph
THE Adelaide day/night Test is a social occasion with wine and conversation flowing freely out the back of the grandstand.
On the other side of the pavilion however it’ll be anything but a picnic atmosphere, especially for the England team.
Australia’s short-pitched onslaught at the Gabba worked so successfully on England’s lower order batting that it could become a more widely used weapon for the rest of the series.
This has already been hinted at by the sudden reference to the Adelaide Oval as “the fastest wicket around Australia at night”.
Considering this unlikely theme was promoted by the Australian coach Darren Lehmann, it could also be the classic double bluff; prepare the England batsmen for missiles whistling around their ears and then bombard them with swinging and seaming deliveries pitched on a fuller length.
Despite the conjecture over the mode of attack, a couple of things are certain.
The England lower order will receive a plethora of short-pitched deliveries and going by the adjudicating in the first Test, the willow wielders shouldn’t expect any protection from the umpires.
This doesn’t bode well for England’s fast bowlers.
Both Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are reasonably comfortable against short-pitched deliveries and consequently they don’t fear any threat of retaliation. Emboldened fast bowlers blessed with skill and menace aren’t a pleasant proposition.
Consequently the England bowlers need to come up with a much improved plan when batting. Standing and defending the short-pitched delivery — no matter how tall you are — isn’t a viable long-term option in Australia. There are two dangers; firstly, when the ball climbs steeply it’s impossible to control the shot and secondly, there’s the danger of a broken finger as the bowling hand is in the firing line.
There’s no doubt that the combination of a pink ball and playing under lights will suit England’s predominately swing and seam attack. However the England batsmen have to confront the same testing conditions and a repeat of their Gabba performance, where they failed to convert starts into match-winning scores will result in any improved bowling performance going to waste.
No matter how difficult the circumstances the England fast bowlers, led by Chris Woakes, debutant Craig Overton and Stuart Broad, have to adopt a more aggressive approach to Australia’s short-pitched assault.
At the very least some form of counter-attack may cause the Australian pacemen to pitch even shorter and then the batsmen could find the ball passing harmlessly through to the keeper.
As if England doesn’t have enough headaches on the field, the Ben Stokes saga has been further fuelled by his playing presence in New Zealand.
Despite the prospect of a Stokes appearance in the Ashes series dwindling, with the police referring the matter for charging advice, his presence nearby is a further distraction that England could well do without coming on the heels of the Jonny Bairstow drama.
Nevertheless, Australia needs to be careful if they intend to use Stokes as the butt of their on-field comments.
Firstly, any comments SHOULD attract the attention of the umpires and secondly, they don’t want to further arouse an England side already annoyed by some of the Australian antics in Brisbane.
All that aside, the Australian team must have been looking forward to Adelaide Oval as eagerly as the lawn lounging revellers at the back of the grandstand.
Not only did Australia establish a distinct psychological advantage through their fast bowlers but Steve Smith also achieved the same result with his resolute batting.
As desperately as the England fast bowlers need to find a solution with bat-in-hand, they are even more in need of a plan devised to dismiss the prolific Australian captain.
Adding to Smith’s dominance was the second innings revelation that the aggressive David Warner may have found the ideal opening partner in the impressive Cameron Bancroft.
Bancroft played much of his second innings knock to the sound track of the Barmy Army trumpeter playing the Simon and Garfunkel hit tune Mrs Robinson. This was a reference to Anne Bancroft, the actress who played Mrs Robinson in the movie The Graduate.
The song became even more relevant as Bancroft the cricketer quickly graduated from debutant to fully-fledged Test opener. His calming presence helped solidify the Australian line-up, making it slightly less reliant on Smith and Warner.
The England batting on the other hand, despite a couple of impressive Ashes debuts from Mark Stoneman and James Vince, still has a fragile appearance. If the Australian bowlers can exploit this brittleness it’ll be another reason for the Adelaide Oval punters to clink their glasses and celebrate, as victory would put England’s Ashes defence on the downhill slope to oblivion.
Ian Chappell is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.