Australia beat England by 275 runs to win the second Ashes Test at Adelaide on Sunday and take a 2-0 series lead going into Sunday’s Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Here, AFP Sport looks at what we learned from the day-night clash:
The sight of paceman Ollie Robinson bowling off-spin with his sunglasses on during Australia’s second innings wreaked of desperation, and another poor decision by the England selectors.
After being slammed for omitting Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad from the heavy first Test defeat on a seamer-friendly wicket in Brisbane, the pair returned in an all-pace attack at the expense of left-arm spinner Jack Leach despite an Adelaide track offering plenty of turn.
That saw not only Robinson forced to bowl spin, but part-timers Dawid Malan and skipper Joe Root also employed to keep the over rate moving and give the tired and sore seamers a break.
“If Jack Leach is not going to play at Adelaide on that pitch, when will he?,” former skipper Nasser Hussain wrote in a column for the Daily Mail.
“The sight of Ollie Robinson bowling off-spin summed it all up.”
Tough at the top
Australia and England both have problems at the top of the batting order, with plenty to ponder ahead of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Marcus Harris’s Test career is on shaky ground after another Ashes failure, the latest in a series of Australia openers who have failed to make the position their own.
The slot has been a problem since Chris Rogers’ retirement after the 2015 Ashes, with selectors trying various combinations to partner David Warner.
Harris has been given every opportunity but after making only 12 over two innings in Brisbane then being out for three and 23 in Adelaide, he is running out of lives.
“His record is a worry, his record against England is a worry and his record against Stuart Broad is a worry,” said former captain Ricky Ponting.
England have had similar problems with Rory Burns, but his battling 34 in the second innings could have earned him another go at the MCG.
Beware the jolly Green giant
Towering all-rounder Cameron Green has come into his own this series, winning praise for his bowling with former England captain Michael Vaughan likening him to a young Andrew Flintoff.
The 22-year-old Australian failed to make a significant impact with the ball in his maiden Test series at home against India a year ago, although he did well with the bat.
But the 1.98 metre tall (6ft 6in) Green has been given a greater bowling role against England and thrived, showing growing confidence to remove England skipper Joe Root in successive Tests, both at crucial times.
“He’s obviously a fantastic talent for a young fellow,” veteran quick bowler Mitchell Starc said after Green helped dismiss England for 236 in their first innings at Adelaide with a very handy 2-24 off 10 overs.
“This summer he’s come into his own, he’s taken his first (Test) wicket and has got a bit of confidence behind him and he complements the attack really well.”
Brittle batting exposed
England’s lack of batting depth was exposed again in Adelaide by an under-strength Australia attack missing Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
Once again Root and Dawid Malan were head and shoulders above the rest in the first innings, making 62 and 80 respectively after Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed fell cheaply.
But, as in Brisbane, when they departed no one stood up with eight wickets falling for 86 runs despite perfect batting conditions, a collapse that cost them dearly.
Ollie Pope looked out of his depth while Ben Stokes has so far failed to fire. Jos Buttler redeemed himself somewhat with a battling 26 from more than 200 balls in the second innings, but big scores and partnerships were missing.
In contrast, all of Australia’s top six, bar Harris, made a half-century in Adelaide.
“The Australians are very good that once they open that door (get a wicket) they climb through that door and get two or three quick ones straight afterwards,” Malan said.
“That’s been a bit of a trend this tour and last tour and hopefully we can start learning from that and close the door.”
Steve Smith hardly put a foot wrong on his return as Australia’s captain, for the first time in nearly four years following his involvement in a ball-tampering scandal, after Pat Cummins was ruled out.
Leading from the front, he made 93 in the first innings, snared some quality catches, taking six in all, and orchestrated the bowling changes that saw England crumble on day three.
He then chose not to enforce the follow-on, which ultimately proved the correct decision.
Relishing the opportunity, he was expressive in the field, leaning on vice-captain Travis Head and long-time slips partner David Warner as a sounding board.
Former Australian great Adam Gilchrist said on Fox Sports it was “admirable” how he had made the transition so seamlessly.
“It shows that mindset and temperament of him, how much he loves the game, how much he thinks about the game,” he said.
Cummins, who missed Adelaide after being a close contact of a Covid case, is set to return for Melbourne, with Smith reverting to vice-captain, for now.
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