Venue: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (South Australia)
Date: 4-8 December 2013
Time: Midnight (GMT)
Following England’s first test humiliation at the Gabba the three lions head to Adelaide looking to bounce back after a brief stopover in Alice Springs. Since that disastrous opening act in this Ashes series Jonathan Trott has of course gone home with a stress related illness while the hosts have promised to maintain their verbally aggressive approach on the pitch. While the negatives have outweighed the positives so far for England Andy Flower will be pleased that Tim Bresnan came through an England Lions game unscathed and the Yorkshireman looks ready to come into the side for the second test if selected. After his strong showing in the first test Stuart Broad has largely escaped the media criticism that greeted him upon his arrival down under, however along with Kevin Pietersen and Jonny Bairstow he was photographed enjoying a few beers on night out earlier this week. The ECB have since said that the trio broke no team rules so while it’s essentially a non-story that hasn’t stopped the vulture-like Australian press seizing the opportunity to pile even more pressure on the hated ‘poms’.
Australia are in the envious position of not needing to make any changes for this test thanks to both a clean bill of health and a near perfect performance in Brisbane. They did dabble with the idea of including all-rounder James Faulkner as a fifth bowling option but decided against it, which means specialist batsman and limited-overs captain George Bailey keeps his spot at six in the batting order. One boost the selectors and captain Michael Clarke received this week was the news that Shane Watson is ready to fulfill his bowling duties after taking on a lighter role with the ball during the first test. Steve Smith also offers Clarke an option with his occasional leg spin so the Aussies should have no shortage of bowling options even if they’re made to toil in the field.
Likely team: Rogers, Warner, Watson, Clarke (c), Smith, Bailey, Haddin (wk), Johnson, Siddle, Harris, Lyon
England have a much murkier selection picture, with at least one change necessary thanks to Trott’s departure. Chris Tremlett also looks certain to be replaced after a disappointing showing in the first test, even though his four wickets were as many as Graeme Swann and James Anderson managed between them. Tim Bresnan has been declared fit so he’s in the frame for selection, however England could opt for Monty Panesar as another spin option after recent Sheffield Shield matches on the Oval’s new drop in surface suggest that the pitch is more conducive to turn than it is seam. Should Panesar get the nod then Ben Stokes could make his debut as a bowling all-rounder, offering England a promising yet raw pace option. However if Tremlett of Bresnan are selected ahead of Panesar then Gary Ballance, another uncapped player, will likely play at six as a direct replacement for Trott. Finally Joe Root appears to be the man chosen to assume Trott’s number three spot in the order. If the situation sounds muddled that’s because it is, and I suspect Alistair Cook and Andy Flower are the only people who know what names England will reel off at the coin toss.
Likely team: Cook (c), Carberry, Root, Pietersen, Bell, Stokes, Prior (wk), Broad, Swann, Anderson, Panesar
Pitch and weather
Traditionally the wicket at the Adelaide Oval is an absolute road although it lacks the pace and bounce of the strips in Brisbane and Perth. Paul Collingwood made a famous double century here in 2006 as England racked up 551-6 declared (and lost), while three years ago Kevin Pietersen made a double ton of his own as England won by an innings. The new drop-in surface has so far played very similarly to previous incarnations of the pitch with runs galore and wickets in short supply. However over fifty percent of dismissals at the venue this season have been recorded by spinners, a sharp increase from just over a twenty five percent last year.
As far as the weather is concerned there are varying forecasts available for each of the tests five days. Light rain showers could arrive tonight and over the weekend, potentially taking time out of the game. Temperatures in the city have been unseasonably cool in recent days but are set to rise during the course of the test.
Marias Erasmus and Kumar Dharmasena
Australia have their tails up while England have a multitude of questions to answer following a nightmare first test, which in usual circumstances would make a home win the sensible bet. However with rain in the forecast and a flat wicket in store there’s a strong possibility that this test could end in a draw – if England raise their game with the bat. A top seven containing Michael Carberry, Gary Ballance or Ben Stokes and an out of form Matt Prior is anything but solid, yet if the core of Cook, Pietersen and Bell perform as they have in the past then the more peripheral players shortcomings will become less terminal. A slow surface should help those players feel more at home against the hostile bowling of Mitchell Johnson and the unerring accuracy of Ryan Harris; as a result I have confidence that England can post a sizable first innings total and claim a draw to keep within touching distance ahead of the final three tests.