Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide December 2, 2010

Visitors aim to banish Adelaide nightmare


England have arrived in Adelaide with the same uncompromising outlook with which they departed Brisbane last week. Any sense of jubilation at their powerful finale to the first Test has been firmly tempered by the realisation that, for the first three days of the series, they were worryingly off the pace. After all, it's not often that a side can post 260 in its first innings, as England did at the Gabba, and expect to ease to safety four days later by racking up 1 for 517 at the second time of asking.

"For us to be jumping up and down and congratulating each other would be a long way off the mark," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "We are nil-all in the series and we are going to have to improve our performance. We showed a lot of resilience to come back and draw in Brisbane, which is great, but you can't afford to be behind in cricket matches too often because eventually the other team will convert that."

That principle is especially true at the Adelaide Oval, one of the most picturesque places of execution in the world game. Australia's record at the venue is not quite as formidable as the one it boasts at the Gabba, but given that the ground bears an unfair reputation as a bowler's graveyard, it is impressive nonetheless. In 19 Tests dating back to 1992, they have emerged with 13 victories and just three defeats, the most recent of which came against India in 2003, when Ponting's highest Test score of 242 wasn't enough to ensure against defeat.

Of all those Adelaide victories, however, none has filled Australia with more pleasure - or caused England more agonised months of recrimination - than the heist they performed on the last Ashes tour in 2006. In losing an unloseable Test match, England more or less confirmed, even before the series had been surrendered, that they would depart Australia bearing the scars of the first 5-0 Ashes whitewash since 1920-21.

Never mind 260. England made more than twice that figure in their first innings in 2006 - 6 for 551 declared, in fact, thanks to a 310-run stand between Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen - only to suffer a catastrophic final-day capitulation at the hands of Shane Warne. "Like medieval royals with syphilis, they went suddenly mad," wrote Greg Baum in The Age the following morning, after England had shipped their nine remaining second-innings wickets for 70 in 54 overs, to lose a stunning contest by six wickets in the final hour of the day.

"In the last Ashes, the Test win here was probably the best Test win I've been involved with," recalled Ponting, who top-scored for Australia with 142. "It was an amazing game of cricket, from both teams really, but we grabbed the initiative really late in the game, and we were good enough to get over the line. There are some fond memories for a few of the guys who played in that game, a fair bit of success - Michael Clarke got a hundred, Mike Hussey got 91 - so hopefully some of those good memories will be good signs this week."

Strauss, unsurprisingly, was rather less willing to recall the events of that match, except to say that forewarned will be forearmed in the coming encounter, much as Jonathan Trott admitted had been the case up in Brisbane last week. In that match, England had effectively begun the final day of the first Test on 1 for 88 in their second innings, a position that was nine runs worse off than had been the case at Adelaide four years ago.

"It was obviously a bit of a kick in the teeth at the time but a lot of things have moved on since then," said Strauss. "But what it proved to us is that anything is possible in the game of cricket. Australia sniffed a chance of victory and took that chance, but we kind of conspired in our downfall really.

"You need to learn from those sort of experiences and I think we have learnt from it, but to expect the match to go in a similar way this time would be wrong really. It's a very different set of players and once you have been through that, you will be making sure you don't get in that situation again."

The most obvious lesson to be taken from that game is that no first-innings total is big enough on this ground. Andrew Flintoff declared on 551 for 6, when hindsight decrees that he should have pushed on to 700, just as Australia's 556 in 2003 was also insufficient. "It's not very often you come to Adelaide and it's not a bat-first pitch," said Ponting. "It does look particularly good and ready to go. The sun's out and I'd be very surprised if whoever wins the toss tomorrow doesn't bat first."

As if to reinforce the point, only once in the past 27 Tests has the team winning the toss chosen to bowl first at the Adelaide Oval, and on that occasion, Mohammad Azharuddin's faith in his bowlers was briefly justified, as Australia were bowled out for 145 shortly after tea on the first day, before recovering for a 38-run win.

On the flip side, however, the dangers if you misfire at the first attempt are plain to see. In six of the last eight Tests at Adelaide dating back to 2000, the team batting first has gone on to lose the match, despite two of those first-innings totals being in excess of 500, and only one of them (New Zealand's 270 in 2008) being less than 342.

"We've got all sorts of stats on the Adelaide Oval," said Strauss, who sounded like a man who'd been swotting up on the need for a powerful start. "Generally, it's a bat-first wicket - because it gives you control of the game. But there have been plenty of instances of the side batting first getting a big score and that being counter-acted by another big score batting second - so I don't think it's one of those wickets where the toss is massively important."

Given the selection issues that Australia have to contend with on Friday, Ponting was very happy for England to be aware of the pitfalls of first-innings failures. "If that's one thing they are conscious of then good," he said, "because it's another thing for them to be thinking about tomorrow or Saturday, or whenever they get to bat.

"If you look through the history of games here, you need to make big first-innings scores. It's generally a pretty good place to bat, and I guess that's the way all around Australia. But they played well in the second innings in Brisbane, and we have to make sure we don't give them the same opportunities."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on December 5, 2010, 22:43 GMT

    I would like to point out a mistake in the article: it says Ricky Ponting's highest Test score was the 242 he made at Adelaide against India in 2003. However, I believe his highest Test score is 257, which was also made in 2003 and also against India, but at the MCG.

  • Cricinfouser on December 3, 2010, 11:13 GMT

    I agree that Dravid was an under-rated cricketer but that does not mean he is a better batsman than Sachin.SRT started his international career much earlier than Dravid and so has played more overseas tours than Dravid.It is not easy to maintain the same average after every tour.

  • SRT_GENIUS on December 3, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    If Sachin wasn't given [wrong] lbw to Waugh, India would've won.

  • dutchy on December 2, 2010, 22:45 GMT

    England partly lost that test because they only have five batsman - Flintoff was little more than a useful tailender - England have learnt their lesson now. If they'd had five batsman at the Gabba, they wouldn't have had Bell and they would have crashed out.

  • dummy4fb on December 2, 2010, 22:40 GMT

    I agree that Dravid is a hugely under-rated cricketer. He was India's best and most reliable batsman between 2001-2006 and has had a glorious career. Seems like a nice chap as well. But lest this become yet another "SACHIN IS KING" thread (seriously, we all get he's a genius....), I'll move on....

    I think England will have slightly the better of the next 5 days but another draw looms leaving a 'Best of Three' shootout for Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

  • true_cricket_fan on December 2, 2010, 22:14 GMT

    @Ragrand: Let's not forget that along with Dravid's batting, Agarkar was another man who bowled splendidly in that game (i remember his 6 wickets in the second innings), which eventually helped India clinch the game. Looking at recent crop of Indian fast bowlers, especially in ODI cricket, I feel Agarkar was far more better than all of them, even in terms of the economy rate!

  • dkbhanu on December 2, 2010, 21:56 GMT

    I am an Indian too and am surprised how some people continue to post irrelevant posts about already much celebrated Indian batsmen. Regardless of the great feats of Rahul, how is it relevant other than irritate even fellow supporters? If you are that myopic, just read Indian cricket stories.

  • 5wombats on December 2, 2010, 21:54 GMT

    Hi guys. This one has draw written all over it. My only worry is the dropping of Johnson (which I accurately predicted last August - remember Aussie fans?). My worry is that in dropping Johnson, Aussie will shed baggage and include a more effective player - lets face it, Johnson was great news for England. Funny thing - over here in Pommyland some papers were saying Johnson held the Ashes in his left hand. Not any more he doesn't. There is a frenzy about Aus at the moment, an inward looking destructive kind of frenzy. Nice to see. Makes a change. The Aus selectors are obviously at each others throats and there is clearly a changing of the guard going on (yes, we noticed). I love it. This Australian Ashes series is gripping me in a way I haven't experienced for over 20 years. Being a Brit and having lived in Aus - I know what it means to both sides. Good comments by Miller and thanks to Cricinfo! This series will end up 1-0 or 2-1 to England. Aus are there for the taking - bring it on!

  • SFGoldenGate on December 2, 2010, 18:04 GMT

    @RAGRAND, Thanks man for pointing out. I am not an Indian and thats why I am not biased to any Indian Batsmen more than others. I also felt that, Sachin scored many centuries, 22 of them in IND, total 33 in sub-continent. I do not see any bowler who can challenge Sachin in sub-continent. Even McGrath, Akram -- these kind of bowler also struugled becuase of the lack of life in sub-continent pitches. NOw, for argument lets, remove subcontinental data from Sachin and Dravids career. Now you will see that on overseas tour Dravid is much better match winner. You are right, he scored when mattered. He scored that 233 against Warne, McGrath and won the match on AUS soil. Sachins doublw hundred in Sydney fetched a draw. In fact no impact becuase few others also scored century. Sachins 2nd double hundred is recent 214 against a totally impotent AUS attack in Indian soil. And I think if Dravid is given chance at 16 and given 172 tests he would have scored like 15000 runs. Dravid is the best.

  • addiemanav on December 2, 2010, 17:55 GMT

    the last time i commented on this particular match on cricinfo it became quite controversial as everyone started abusing each i am not going to start it all over again but just say that if eng get 550 this time,they are not going to declare and not going to bat like they did last time!!johnson not playing is the biggest sign of desperation shown by aussies!!there are positive signs for eng!!but i hope the series ends 2-2,with sydney going into last session and hopefully last 10 runs with last wkt!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.