Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day December 4, 2010

New faces but same problems for Australia

The hosts shuffled their quick-bowling pack before the second Test but so far it has made little difference and Ricky Ponting has nowhere left to turn

Residents in the Adelaide Hills know lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice, but the Australians are quickly learning that the concept doesn't apply to this Ashes series. For the second time in two innings the local attack has been burnt by English batsmen who are at home in conditions that were once so demanding.

In three sessions in Adelaide, Australia have been twice as successful as during the second innings in Brisbane, where the riot finished at 1 for 517. There is nothing else to be cheerful about after the revamped attack failed to melt their opponents in the hot, dry conditions. There was no relief from the storms that were visible in the hills as the visitors skipped to 2 for 317, and another dose of punishment is due for day three.

England, who have had more cases of heatstroke than series wins here over the past 20 years, are lining up for retribution. The Australian team is unrecognisable from four summers ago except for their leader and the colour of the caps. In times past they could bring in a replacement knowing that the original man could be covered without weakening the chain.

Australia entered this match with a new bowling hand, but have done nothing more than swap a pair of 3s for a couple of 4s. No amount of bluffing on a flat pitch can turn that collection into a pot-grabbing success, especially against such in-form batsmen.

Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger have joined Peter Siddle and are on the way to suffering the same damage that broke Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson at the Gabba. Having already been let down by the batsmen, who fell over for 245 on the most run-friendly pitch in the land, the fast men were already well behind.

The effort of the trio cannot be mocked because they charged in throughout a day that peaked at 37 degrees. Bollinger collected a third-ball breakthrough with a teasing in-swinger and chances were created early and not taken. Once England overcame those difficulties they raced ahead, taking 54 runs in the first hour. They didn't need to brake for long over the remainder of the day.

While the batting was first-class, the collective standard of the bowling was much lower. Australia are ranked No.5 for good reason, with the side unable to make consistent runs or rely on regular wickets. The current crop isn't sure what to do because it has never known such regular, helpless positions, and the leader's requests keep changing.

All are trying in unison with Ponting, who trials inventive fields and then regularly re-sets them. If he was winning he would be compared to Mike Brearley for his brilliance, but in this tinkering mood he looks like a mad professor. The complex demands aren't working for a team of relative newcomers.

Ponting felt Doherty could follow the team plan, but he has been severely outclassed and unable to build pressure

In the first session, the bowlers were asked to target the leg stump of Jonathan Trott, who aimed successfully at the boundaries and ensured the momentum from day one remained with England. Before the new ball came, Siddle briefly attacked Cook with short balls, while having three men on the rope on the legside, but that burst passed without incident. Ponting was playing chess and not realising England were enjoying a simple game of draughts. Harris was the best performer and his only success came when Trott popped a catch to the regulation position of midwicket.

Whenever Xavier Doherty, the left-arm spinner, was employed the batsmen were able to relax and wait to latch on to his short balls. Cook cut three boundaries in consecutive deliveries and the rest were untroubled by a man Ponting wanted in the side. Ponting felt Doherty could follow the team plan, but he has been severely outclassed and unable to build pressure.

So far Doherty has given up 70 runs in 15 overs - ten fours came from short offerings outside off stump - in what could be his last Test innings. Nathan Hauritz, who took career-best figures for New South Wales this week, must come back to provide some confidence and control, even though he was cut so severely two weeks ago. What to do about the rest is as cloudy as the forecast for the latter stages of the game.

In seven days, Ponting has used eight bowlers and nothing good has happened for them after Siddle's six-wicket flicker when the curtain raised at the Gabba. The three specialist fast men in this match have been honest and committed, but not dangerous. Just like the second innings at the Gabba.

These are unfamiliar times for Australia and they have to change direction to alter the course of the series. Toning down the test-tube fields and focusing on one line outside off stump is a starting point. It goes against Australia's attacking philosophy to be so narrow, but the current tactics are failing and some disciplined boredom is required to stay in the contest. Without a quality spinner and an elite strike bowler, they have no choice but to grind.

What they really need is some lightning but Johnson, the man most capable of those bolts, is out of the side and horribly out of form. On the second day all the flashes came from the dark clouds in the hills east of Adelaide, and the England batsmen in the middle.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2010, 11:30 GMT

    To be Honest , the Australians played Poorly . I mean when you drop a guy 2 times (Trott) how can you expect to win a match . . . . ? Australians take pride in their fielding and had those catches been taken the outcome would have been quite different . The Bottomline is that the Australians have no one to blame but themselves for shoddy batting , poor fielding and wayward bowling

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2010, 7:50 GMT

    We must keep some faith in the selectors but they have to widen their horizons. Our stocks are not as good as we thought. Some changes are needed for Perth. We must have a spinner which would be Hauritz or as a wild card S O'Keefe. Paine takes on the keeping and Haddin plays as a batsman. Does he open with Watson? After all without Haddin and Hussey we would have lost the 1st test and may also lose the 2nd. Katich (injured) brings North to open. His last chance. If Clarke plays he better be fit. Which bowlers is difficult. All of the bowlers who played in the last 2 test matches have gone. Some of the current bowlers seem to have twinges. If fit, best bet Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Bollinger but perhaps good time to blood a new boy e.g. Hazelwood or George. If only Ponting had Warne's flair. We may win!

  • David on December 5, 2010, 6:35 GMT

    No need to panic - we need to play our best 11 and the guys who are playing are pretty close to the best 11. Too bad Hodge is 36 because he is still close to being in our best 11.The pitches we have played on have highlighted our problem - our bowling is not good enough but I don't think we have better. For those posters who believe that this is an opportunity to stack the side with more NSW players like Hodra99 think again. The rain has set in here and more is forecast for the next 2 days so a draw is on the cards. I think if Haddin drops another few catches the finger will start being pointed at him, although he took a cracker today and the runs he's making are valuable the fielding has been inferior to the English.

  • Narayanan on December 5, 2010, 5:44 GMT

    I think it doesnt matter who Aus bring in. All the Aus bowlers and batsmen are way below international standards. Lets accept that. Please dont expect Aus to be the same like they were 10yrs back. The important missed out part is the bench strength. They failed to develop it even though they have a very robust structure in place. Main players dropping out of imp series to practise in shield matches looks like a big joke on themselves. I dont understand what they could practise more in domestic matches than international matches. Anyway, Aus are down and out for the next 10yrs. Lets expect something from them after 2020. In the mean time, Ind are the best. Lets celebrate their success. Infact you dont have a choice. they are going to rule the records for the next 10yrs. Based on how well they manage their bench strengths, they will extend their limit. Am getting ready for celebrations.

  • Verleus on December 5, 2010, 5:38 GMT

    Lets see how this English team fares when they face India this summer...Wont be able to make merry then..!Ha..!No doubt remains that India and SAF are the best teams right now.

  • Fitzroy on December 5, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    Where has that brilliant tactician gone? While Australia was blessed with some of the toughest cricketers, everyone, excluding me, touted Ponters as the greatest man ever to lead men. Now that he is being called upon to truly lead men who are crying out for bold leadership, he is nowhere to be found. Is anyone seeing what I'm seeing in his eyes. The fear is palpable. The free march is over, Ponters.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    Austalia is no where in Batting ,Bowling and fielding in grounds England ,South africa and India is really doing very well.Even Srilanka is doing better.I think new bowlers has to learn from great old one like Lille,Mcgrath, and Shane warne to save Ashes

  • Suresh on December 5, 2010, 4:34 GMT

    How tricky /psycho the Ausies telecast is !!! have been watching the Ashes on Skysports, till some time ago the score bar at the bottom of the screen was showing Eng Lead by XXX runs…now for the past 1hr it's been changed to Aus 245(1st inn score)….Even the Ausie broadcast does not want the little psycho advantage to Eng and the viewers……down down The Ausies….

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2010, 3:48 GMT

    I think the major decline has been in the fielding department. Once upon a time the Aussies weren't dropping catches but nowadays they seem to miss easy chances on a regular basis which comes back to haunt them. Harris I think bowled pretty well, and Bollinger could have had more wickets if Hussey hadn't dropped a sitter. I'm not much a fan of Siddle, seems a nothing bowler. Doherty has reasonably good control most of the time but his insane lack of pace variation is mystifying. Are coaches not saying to him toss it up? Is Ponting? Those type of darts have shown they work in one-day cricket but first-class cricket is a different ball-game. Hauritz getting a 5-for against WA isn't that impressive given WA's batting woes atm, so I wouldn't consider him for a recall just based on one game (we know what happened to Johnson after his 5-for).

  • Rajaram on December 5, 2010, 3:06 GMT

    Xavier Doherty is a useless bowler and a worthless fielder. Sack him. Bring the proven Hauritz back.

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