Adelaide is a must win Test for England
Date: December 6, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
After its 381-run drubbing at the Gabba in the opening Test of this Ashes series England now has to guard against a similar poor performance at Adelaide.
On the back of the dismal showing first-up, the second Test now takes on a crucial complexion for the tourists.
It is a match England needs to win.
Failure to do so could leave its Ashes defence in danger as Australia will enter the third Test at the WACA Ground as a warm favourite given the fact that the Perth pitch is likely to provide its pace arsenal with conditions similar to Brisbane.
England has its concerns at the selection table ahead of the second Test.
The major issue is who to bat at number three in the wake of the sad departure from the tour of Jonathan Trott.
The candidates appear Ian Bell and Joe Root with both men publicly identified by the team’s batting coach Graham Gooch a few days ago.
Bell was perhaps the difference between the two sides during the last Ashes series in England where he scored three centuries en route to 562 runs at 62.4, a contribution made that from number five in the batting order.
Given that, England may perhaps be better served leaving him where he is – for two reasons.
Firstly, and obviously, it is where he has done the most damage lately, and secondly, if he was elevated to number three and then dismissed cheaply it would be a psychological fillip to Australia’s stocks given he was such a thorn in the side last time around.
That leaves Root who is no stranger to batting early in the order.
He opened in the last series, scoring 339 runs across the five Tests, albeit with more than half of them – 180 – coming in one knock at Lord’s.
He has spoken publicly about his desire to be given the role and has even stated that he would welcome a barrage of short-pitched bowling.
Trott’s absence also calls for a new batsman to come into the side at number six.
It appears to be a no-brainer with Gary Ballance virtually assured of making his Test debut.
He batted at number three in the two-day match at Alice Springs between Tests, an indication that the selectors wanted him to have every opportunity to garner some significant time in the middle.
He rewarded them by top-scoring, albeit with a modest 52.
He will enter the Test arena with a fine first-class record behind him.
Having made his county debut as a 19-year-old, at 24 he now averages 53.3 with 18 centuries from 67 matches.
It is a pedigree that indicates that he may have the temperament for Test ranks from day one.
In the bowling department there has been talk of the tourists taking in two spinners with Monty Panesar earning a recall alongside Graeme Swann.
That would be unlikely but it would make perfect sense for a now fit Tim Bresnan to replace Chris Tremlett who bowled with little pace or spark in the opening Test although he did claim four wickets.
Bresnan, a tough-nosed Yorkshireman, was not in the original tour party but has made his way down under having successfully overcome a stress fracture in his back.
He is a workhorse and that is a credential that will be important on what should be a batsman friendly pitch.
He is also a very capable lower-order batsman, boasting a Test average of 30 with two scores in the nineties.
It would appear that the hosts will go in with an unchanged line-up.
James Faulkner will most likely carry the drinks again despite some making a case for him to replace George Bailey.
However, with Shane Watson stating he is ready to bowl some lengthy spells, the inclusion of Faulkner would give the side five pace bowlers.
There is a sense of the unknown ahead of this match with it being the first Test to be played on a drop-in pitch as part of the $550 million revamp at the Adelaide Oval.
In the three Sheffield Shield matches so far this season it has proven to be very batsman friendly with 3569 runs scored for the loss of 84 wickets, an average of 43 runs per wicket.
Not surprisingly all three of those fixtures resulted in a draw.
That may well be the likely outcome in the Test match as well.
If that is the case it would still favour Australia in the grand scheme of things with the very strong prospect that it could head to Boxing Day at the MCG leading 2-nil with two to play should it capitalise on its favouritism for the Perth Test.
If England cannot conjure a win at Adelaide its grip on the little urn may be very tenuous.
It will not be easy for the tourists.
But that is what Test cricket is all about.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 5 December 2013