2013-14 Ashes Second Test Preview: The Distorted English View from Down Under

Blog by: Rohinee

Australia v England - First Test: Day 4

Triumphs, heartbreaks and controversies marred the English leg of the Ashes. It thus came as a surprise to no one to see the retaliatory welcome that the Australians put up for the English squad for the return leg of the series. The English team which had prided on keeping a cool head above their shoulders, just a few months ago, was distinctly looking uncomfortable as the Australians unleashed one of their most powerful weapons to trouble the visitors.

Politeness was given as a courtesy in an offhand manner even as most of the Australian squad went on about gibing and jibing about the English team. The openness of the Australians’ derision was so palpable that the match referee had to intervene to ask both sides to maintain the decorum that the sport demanded. But no matter the English invoking to the different cricketing elements, there was no shying away from the enormity of the loss they sustained in the first test at Brisbane.

The aftermath of the loss also brought home a lot of hard hitting truths to the English side and the inconsistencies that festered in the team unbeknownst to anyone. The most obvious one was of Jonathan Trott’s lack of consistency and loss of form that forced him to abruptly truncate his Ashes tour after the completion of the first test and return home to try and get some focus off him. Trott’s departure coupled with the failure of several English batsmen to stand up to the Australian bowling irrevocably wrecked the winning continuity and pattern that the visitors had gotten accustomed to.

Mitchell Johnson was the biggest bane of the English team along with well-timed assistances in the form of Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle. Stuart Broad – the man who was the recipient of the Australians’ homage to Harry Potter character Lord Voldemort’s sobriquet, ‘You-Know-Who’ – did well on the first day of the first test to rattle through the Australian batting order. But his efforts distinctly paled, when compared to Mitchell Johnson’s bowling accuracy. The way he was able to exploit the pitch conditions substantiated the reason as to why the Australians haven’t lost a test match at Gabba in over 20-years.

Though England is known to be able to regroup well into the second test match in any series – the one against India at the start of the 2013-14 season is a significant example – the team will need to bolster and marshal quite a few of its resources in order to be able to put Australia on the back-foot yet again.

The no.3 spot remains an important factor to consider. Joe Root who had enjoyed, till the Australian Ashes leg, an incredible debut cricket season has been pipped to be one of the choices to play in the position; the other being Ian Bell. Though promoting Root up the order to play at no.3 would be an interesting jugglery, asking Bell to come in at no.3 would definitely be a better option especially with him having notched good statistical figures playing in that particular position, on quite a few occasions previously.

Similarly, the inclusion of Bresnan will also have an impact on the match proceedings at Adelaide, with pitch conditions panning out differently to the conditions at Brisbane. The Australians may be opting to for an unchanged test squad but the lackadaisical play-making of their opponents is sure to bring about a few noteworthy changes to the English team. The pressure however will be more on Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior to salvage the situation before it further deteriorates.

Australia will thus need to be on guard without allowing themselves to become complacent. Sledging and the rivalry-induced banter aside, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Steven Smith are the batsmen who need to perform for the Australians. The positivity that Darren Lehmann has brought to the team has been quite obvious and it would be up to these guys to ensure that the team doesn’t lose its on-pitch aggression.

The Australians’ bowling has been exceptional and can be expected to continue to do well with Mitchell Johnson holding the key to their momentum. The English squad has been utterly flummoxed by the pace bowler and the Australians will be counting on Johnson to provide them with breakthroughs so as to enable them to continue maintaining a stranglehold over England.

Match Prediction: Match to be Drawn, Australia to lead England going into the Third Test, 1-0.

 

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