Magical memories, but now Australia under scrutiny
December 3, Adelaide
Start time 10:30 (00:00 GMT)
The Big PictureEngland fought back to show character and ended up controlling the first Test, but they must build on their hard-won momentum to deliver more pain to the ailing hosts. Andrew Strauss already holds the urn so he has an important advantage in what has turned into a four-game shootout. The equation is simple: Australia must win more games than England to reclaim the Ashes.
Given the state of the sides, a local victory will be hard work in Adelaide. The back-to-back games mean both outfits will have some weary men, and the bowlers face another back-breaking week on a surface that feels like paradise for the batsmen. At the end of the Gabba Test, Ricky Ponting couldn't help but laugh at England's second innings, which finished at 1 for 517. There wasn't much else he could do after watching his bowlers provide fodder for Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott.
It is extremely unusual for the hosts to be under such heavy scrutiny so early in a home campaign, but they must discover some sustained form to win some relief. Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris, the fast bowlers, have been included in the 13-man squad and have been trying to impress in the nets this week. The batting remains unchanged but once again this is an important game for Marcus North, the hit-and-miss batsman, and part-time spinner.
The game here four years ago is still remembered as a nightmare or a magical dream, depending on your allegiance. England entered the final day at 1 for 59, with a lead of 97 and a chance to push for victory. Instead they were rolled by Shane Warne for 129 and Australia sped to a six-wicket victory. England never recovered and the result changed the series.
Form guide(most recent first)
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Ricky Ponting was relieved when he was able to leave the Gabba with an unbeaten half-century on Monday. He did enough to show some much-needed form in the Test arena and convince himself he's on target for a huge score. As Australia showed in the first game, they need their captain to fire, and will hope he does it on a ground he loves. Ponting is the leading scorer in Adelaide with 1433 runs, including five centuries and a high of 242, in 14 Tests.
Like Ponting, Kevin Pietersen produced a bright start in Brisbane, with 43 when the conditions were at their toughest on the opening day. Just as he was starting to shine brightly he pushed at Peter Siddle and edged to second slip. Pietersen is desperate for a big contribution and will start at Adelaide sans moustache, which makes him look hungry for runs instead of 1970s fun. The arena is Pietersen's favourite - although that might have changed slightly after his rain rant yesterday - but he has mixed memories from four years ago. He conquered Warne in the first innings with 158, but was bowled trying to sweep on that fateful final day in 2006-07.
Team newsAustralia's bowlers are the most nervous groups of players in the country and Mitchell Johnson has already had his card marked unfavourably. Ponting has confirmed Johnson has been dropped from the side after his ineffective performance at the Gabba, with Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger vying for his place. With a gap of only three days between Tests, the fresh men could provide a huge boost for the already weary side. Expect Bollinger to come in for Johnson, which lengthens Australia's tail, while Ben Hilfenhaus also struggled at the Gabba and will be under pressure from Harris.
Australia (probable) 1 Simon Katich, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Marcus North, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Xavier Doherty, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Doug Bollinger.
England's bowlers also found the Gabba pitch tough work but only injury will force them into a change. Steven Finn showed he could extract some extra bounce out of lifeless surfaces, while Stuart Broad and James Anderson also had bright patches. The key for England is to get something out of their highly-rated spinner Graeme Swann, who struggled in the opening game.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ian Bell, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn.
Pitch and conditionsThis will be the first Test in charge for the curator Damian Hough, who has replaced Les Burdett after his four decades at the ground. Hough expects a traditional Adelaide wicket, which means lots of runs and some unpredictable bounce late in the game. "Every year we have been able to produce a sporting pitch," Hough said. "There have been eight results in the last 10 years so I think the characteristics haven't changed." The forecast for the opening day is mostly fine, with a top temperature of 30C, while Saturday's maximum is expected to be 35C.
Stats and trivia
- The last time Australia drew at the Gabba, they followed up with a four-wicket defeat in Adelaide. That was against India in 2003-04. England last drew the opening Test of an Ashes tour in 1998-99, which they followed with losses in Perth and Adelaide
- After last week's run-fest, when Cook became the highest scorer at the Gabba with his 235, the players will have to do a lot better to beat the ground's high mark. Don Bradman's 299 is the top score, while England's best is Paul Collingwood's 206 four years ago
- Two players involved in the match will start it with batting averages of more than 200 at the venue. Brad Haddin's mean is 245 in two Tests, while Collingwood's is 228 after one match.
- Australia have won 16 of 29 Tests against England at Adelaide, while the visitors have succeeded on eight occasions. Their last victory there came in 1994-95, when Devon Malcolm and Chris Lewis bowled the hosts out for 156 in the final innings.
- Only four of the specialist bowlers in both squads have played Tests in Adelaide. Johnson has played there three times, while Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger and James Anderson have played there once.
Quotes"The bottom line is we've got to find 20 wickets in the game and we've got to pick the bowlers who we think are best equipped, skill-based wise and physically, to get that job done."
"We played a really good three-day game here a little while ago, and it was really valuable to play on the Test square. Our guys enjoyed playing on that surface."
Andy Flower, England's coach
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo