Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day

Clarke grins and bears it, again

As Australia's top-order batsmen squandered their starts, the job of ensuring a score the situation merited was once more left to Michael Clarke

Daniel Brettig at Adelaide Oval

December 5, 2013

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A
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Michael Clarke smiled broadly upon winning a critical Ashes toss at the new Adelaide Oval. By day's end, his face wore something more like a grimace, as Clarke was again left to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for constructing a first-innings tally worthy of the beaming grin he offered to television cameras upon seeing the coin fall in his favour.

For most of a day speckled by rain interruptions, the task of laying down a foundation for Ashes success weighed very heavily indeed on the Australians. Their most prickly opposition appeared not to be a doughty-but-flawed England - whose players dropped three catches - or an extremely dry drop-in pitch that offered slow turn, easy pace and largely even bounce.

Instead the greatest difficulties emanated from the minds of the batsmen themselves, as a history of inconsistency, and the knowledge of what was at stake, took hold of minds that had been relatively free of self-recriminating thoughts at the Gabba. No batsman, perhaps bar Steven Smith, could legitimately claim to have been bowled out by an unplayable ball or defeated before he had found his bearings.

The brittleness of Australia's batsmen left them in very real danger of doing scant justice to the conditions, and granting England an avenue back into the series after the exceptionally downcast aftermath of the Brisbane Test and Jonathan Trott's pained return home from the tour. David Warner, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers and George Bailey all made starts, but each fell by the wayside after doing the hard work, and left Clarke in his most familiar position of recent times, trying to drag the team along behind him.

"We spoke about if you get in on this wicket you've got to make it count, and that's probably the big disappointment for today," Rogers said, following his 72. "There were a lot of starts, but saying that a lot of us contributed and if we can keep going that's going to be a very competitive score."

How competitive exactly cannot be known until England bat, but the anguished reactions of each player upon losing their wicket in a manner quite avoidable told a tale as anxious as the stumps score of 5 for 273. They had hoped for better in the morning, when a cool day and regular showers could not disguise the fact that the surface was about as suitable for seam and swing as the dry strips of England had been earlier this year.

Warner had little trouble getting established, buzzing his way to 29 in a manner that allowed the more sedate Rogers to take his time. He was particularly strong through the off side, punching powerfully off front and back feet. It was this area that brought his downfall, as for the second time in the series he slashed too eagerly at something short of a length and skewered a catch to backward point.

Not for the first time, Shane Watson went after a solid start, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day, December, 5, 2013
Shane Watson fell in familiar fashion, removed for 51 when well set © Getty Images

The pitch's lack of speed relative to Brisbane had found out Warner, and it would have a similar effect on Watson. For most of his innings he showed good judgment of what to attack what to defend, but the firm-wristed drives that look so perfect when the ball is fired back down the ground can seem inflexible when a variation in pace has him through the shot early.

So it was this day, James Anderson accepting a low return catch and hurling the ball aloft while Watson wandered off regretfully. He remains a batsman almost as vulnerable between 50 and 100 as he is before scoring a run, and opposing bowlers can feel enlivened by his progression beyond the half-century mark for reasons backed up overwhelmingly by statistical evidence.

Rogers' battle against Swann has entered a new phase, after spin was the opener's major source of grief in England. Having worked thoroughly and well with Dean Jones to find more consistent scoring avenues against Swann, Rogers was able to turn the strike over here, and on one occasion knelt down to deliver a sweep shot the equal of the one that took him to his first Test century in Durham. But Swann's capacity to generate variation in turn had flummoxed Rogers in England and did so once more in Adelaide, his bat unable to resist following an off break that spun sharply, if slowly, away, after pitching on course for the stumps.

Rogers turned on his heels immediately, reproaching himself for missing the chance to go on to a hundred and, more damagingly, losing his wicket the very over after Watson. When Smith played crookedly inside Monty Panesar's stock ball before he had settled, the subsidence of three wickets for 19 had England's fielders reacting with more excitement than relief for the first time since day one at the Gabba.

On this uncertain ground, Bailey built his most sure-footed Test innings so far, showing a level of comfort with the slower, lower Adelaide that had eluded him in Brisbane. He scored more swiftly than Clarke, and did not hesitate to punch Swann down the ground when offered a little extra flight, reminding seasoned observers of some innings played on turning pitches for Tasmania against South Australia in earlier years.

But he too lost composure as the shadows grew long, hooking Stuart Broad in the general vicinity of Swann at square leg. The catch was memorable, but the score of 53 less so. Clarke thus had to play for stumps with all the trepidation of a captain knowing his side has not yet made the runs required by the situation, while at the other end Brad Haddin survived only through good fortune offered by Michael Carberry and the DRS.

Captain and deputy were relieved to reach the close with the opportunity for more runs on day two. But they did so knowing that Australia's first brush with the pressures of front-running in this Ashes series had been far from smooth. Further partnerships will be required before Clarke's smile can return.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by RYSE on (December 6, 2013, 7:37 GMT)

Was hilarious to see Cook instruct his bowlers to bowl 2 foot outside leg stump and Clarke, the superior batsman and far more inventive captain, trashing them all the same.

Lungey - you've gone from focusing on your 'world-class' bowlers (Anderson and Swann) and our 'horrible batting lineup' to focusing on who won coin tosses.

Not only that, you baselessly accuse Clarke of being an inferior captain to Cook despite the absolute hiding in Brisbane whereby Cook was once more shown to have nothing once his very basic plans unfold.

Counter that with Clarke, who knew when to declare, when to up the ante, when to change bowlers and also tonned up big time.

Clarke has always had it over Cook as a captain and batsman, it is great to see this finally reflected (for those who don't understand the game well enough to separate the quality of a team with the quality of a captain) in actual performances.

Ponting was a torrid captain but has the highest % wins. #enoughsaid.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (December 6, 2013, 3:44 GMT)

@ Adam Griffin - I think the simple answer is that people link to Whinge.

6 of Australia's top 7 batted 30(isn) plus with 5 of 7 making 50 plus with the like;lit hood of 2 making 100 plus. That's a solid performance from any batting group.

Posted by   on (December 6, 2013, 1:35 GMT)

@Front Foot Lunge is at it again. Even the most ardent of English supporters would concede that Clarke outperforms Cook as a captain - on the field. Cook is so unimaginative. A great batsman, possibly a good leader off the field but on the field......

Posted by   on (December 6, 2013, 1:18 GMT)

I don't really share the angst of fans and perhaps players alike on the failure to convert these good starts. A 50 is still 50 and if Watson, Rodgers and Bailey had all converted then Australia would be 400/3, an absurdly good position. In a game where an average of 50 is considered excellent, why is a score of 50 seen as a disappointment? Australia should comfortably reach 400 and although it's Clarke looking like the bloke to reach 100 again he is, after all, close to being the very best in the world. Some above average scores for everyone else and a century to Clarke is probably the norm for Australia these days as they climb back to being competitive at this level, I don't feel it's a habit that should be denounced.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (December 6, 2013, 0:04 GMT)

In Brisbane, we were told that 400 was a par score, yet it turned out that 300 was well and truly a winnable first innings score. England have gone in with the extra bowler (Stokes) so scores should be a bit lower in this match.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (December 5, 2013, 23:17 GMT)

@Dhanno - Even if after 3 matches it's 1-1, assuming England win in Adelaide? You really think a draw is likely in Perth, or that England will have any sort of advantage in Perth? Surely you jest.

@FFL - You're my favourite. For some reason I always felt like personnel might affect a captain's decisions, but what would I possibly know compared to your good self.

Posted by Jeremy303 on (December 5, 2013, 23:14 GMT)

@Biggus, I'm not sure if you've been keeping up-to-date on this, but it's been well documented that MARK COSGROVE shed 16kg before the shield season simply because of his desire to make the Australian team. it's also possible that he's lost more weight since then. Whilst some might say he's still a unit, I think his rapid weight loss rubbishes claims that he doesn't have the desire and that he isn't putting in the effort. As for hiding him in the field, how did TAS win the shield last year with him being such a burden? He can also bowl some handy medium pace, so at least there is also some use for him as a fielding side. Again, I see him a strong contender to replace Rogers at the end of the Ashes or to slot in for Smith or Bailey should they get dropped.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (December 5, 2013, 22:35 GMT)

It's not all doom and gloom for the Aussies. I'd expect that we make 350 and hopefully push to 400. Which we know is a massive total for the English against Australia.

@ FFL Your comments imply that Cook out captained Clarke in Brisbane, please explain!

Feeling the pressure like the English fielders are you Lungey :)

Posted by bren19 on (December 5, 2013, 22:13 GMT)

It will be a much better looking scorecard if Clarke and/or Haddin go on to make a ton. All of a sudden you will be saying "Clarkes innings formed the cornerstone and was well supported by knocks of 51, 72 and 53."

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

I think it should be pointed out that Haddin didn't 'survive due to the DRS' - he was given not out by Erasmus. And Bailey's 53 was pretty memorable .......... especially the 3 sixes. It's evenly poised - I don't think the wicket's as good as everyone thought on the first look but the England top 5 won't throw their wicket away like the Aussies did. I'm settling in for another absorbing contest between these two sides!

Posted by Gauss on (December 5, 2013, 21:48 GMT)

Good umpiring so far in this series, backed by the reassuring presence of DRS. But some in the media still struggle to understand how DRS works.

In what sense did Haddin survive "through good fortune offered by DRS"? He was not out, the umpire judged he was not out, all the technology confirmed he was not out. England decided to have a crack, fair enough, but I'm not sure how that qualifies as good fortune for Haddin.

Posted by PFEL on (December 5, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

Smith's ball was far from unplayable. Just very poorly played.

Posted by pat_one_back on (December 5, 2013, 20:18 GMT)

How quickly we forget Brisbane, and perhaps more relevantly the 5 preceding tests played on similarly dry slow turners in Eng where a score of 400 was a bridge too far. Aust should have a couple more sessions in them at only 5 down, 350 looks ok on this track, it's no paradise, the ball isn't coming on. The underperforming and now shortened Eng batting line up will feel pressure. Barring a morning collapse or a big Ian Bell 100 Eng will take a defecit into the second innings and will be playing for a drawer days 4/5 I predict. Catches win matches and Eng have dropped enough to lose the test from here.

Posted by AussieSam on (December 5, 2013, 19:29 GMT)

Couple of unfair comments here I think. I found this article to be a very elegant analysis of the day's play. Cricinfo is miles ahead of the usual dry sports pieces you get elsewhere, in terms of writing ability and cricket knowledge. And lately they have been particularly excellent, imo.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 5, 2013, 17:43 GMT)

Clarke has won the toss of a coin both times this series, meanwhile Cook showed again today why he's got far more Ashes victories to his name. In every Ashes of modern times, the Australia captain has been out-captained by the English captain.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 16:31 GMT)

I think you are seeing some different game.On a pitch where driving on the up was non existent, and ball turning even for fastish spinners,273 is pretty good score.350 ould be fine here considering just 5 batsmen Eng have.

Posted by wapuser on (December 5, 2013, 16:31 GMT)

I have to agree with prirantha. It would be great to see an article or two with less emotion and more analysis. This is test cricket not a boxing match!

Posted by Dhanno on (December 5, 2013, 15:37 GMT)

This is a flat pitch which Cook and Co will relish. Its 5 match series guys. The Gabbator wasnt end of all. Australia has plan A: unleash some speed, but it cant last more than 20-25 overs. On this pitch it will be futile anyway, with lack of bounce the balls will disappear. If England apply themselves in those 20 overs they can subdue australian bowling. Johnson cant be consistent and other guy he cant last 5 match series. So win this game and even if after 3 matches england sit on 1-1 they are bound to win the series in last 2 games.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 14:22 GMT)

Instead of writing these type of articles which will have no meaning if England batting collapses once again it would have been better had the writer tried to analyze different possible scenarios based on first day's play. Australia are in a reasonably good position and if they go on to pass 400, England will find it very difficult to get back into this game. England have an unproven No.3, an all-rounder making his debut at No. 6 and a totally out of form Prior at No. 7. Johnson is few yards quicker than any of English bowlers and I would not be surprised if he extract some life out of this so called dead track to trouble the batsmen. When Australia ended up at 265/8 on day 1 of Gabba test it was labelled as a below par effort on a good batting wicket. In the end England's combined total in both innings of the match just managed to better Australia's first innings total.

Posted by inefekt on (December 5, 2013, 14:14 GMT)

This crop of Aussie batsmen seem to be struggling in the grey matter department. They continually fall to dumb shots, quite often very close to major intervals like tea and lunch breaks. If they don't have the mental fortitude to graft long innings then they should give up their places to someone who is at least going to recognise when to attack and when to put the guns back in the holster. As the article suggests, everyone bar Smith got out to a rash stroke, not because they got an unplayable ball. They all could have made more intelligent decisions to ensure the survival of their wickets.

Posted by couchpundit on (December 5, 2013, 13:38 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx - and do you expect monty and swann to be handful in second innings?

Posted by couchpundit on (December 5, 2013, 13:35 GMT)

I expect a double from cook or KP

Posted by Forza_Scuderia on (December 5, 2013, 12:51 GMT)

While I agree that the wicket should only be judged once both teams have had a hit, I cannot help but feel that Australia should be in a better position than they currently are... The way in which some of the batsmen got out, namely Bailey, Watson and Warner, is still a worrying factor. You can build great test innings without being mindless. I suspect Clarke getting stuck in is a consequence of not wanting a bigger collapse than already happened but I also suspect that he will once again show his lads how to go about constructing a big test innings without being overly aggressive.

A lot to play for tomorrow, a little worrying that the pitch is turning this early while Australia have selected only 1 spinner though.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (December 5, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

Watson should be averaging 45, no less. He's in his prime, enormous talent, played 50 tests his average should be better than the wicketkeeper's yet it is not.

Hughes is averaging over 60 in the Shield scoring century after century, it's only a matter of time before he is given a decent go.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (December 5, 2013, 12:37 GMT)

@Biswajit: Over confident!? Do you blokes think that these guys get out on purpose? They don't want to get out, they are trying their best.

Posted by Dangertroy on (December 5, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

Let's just wait until both teams have batted on the wicket first. True it looks like it will be a belter, but three of the batsman criticised made half centuries, and Warner at least scored his runs quickly. I realise no-one went on for a big score, but the way Clarke dug in showed this wasn't the batsmans pitch that everyone is making it out to be. We need to come out and play catiously in the morning, as another few wickets lost early would certainly be bad.I actually think there would be more pressure on England if we bowled first, especially in the second innings, as they really need to win this match, not draw it. Englands batting card has a lot of question marks in it too... An inexperienced opener, Joe Root yoyoing into 3, an allrounder on debut at 6, Prior out of form and two genuine number 11's.

Posted by Biggus on (December 5, 2013, 11:57 GMT)

@Jeremy303:-Where would we hide him in the field? Put him in the slips and kick Clarke with his bad back out into the covers? Truth is, modern cricketers need to be ultra fit and if Cosgrove can't commit to that he doesn't care enough. Others work through gruelling physical regimes to come back from stress fractures and the like so don't tell me he couldn't make the required sacrifices if the desire was there. Couldn't be bothered doesn't cut it I'm afraid.

Posted by David_Boon on (December 5, 2013, 11:39 GMT)

As someone who watched every ball of play, this article is quite misleading. To say that the pressure is on Clarke to rescue the team is ridiculous. 5/270 with the strength of the Australian tail, 400 is a minimum and 450-500 a very realistic possibility. You can't call making 50 a 'start'. Making 20 is a a start, or 29 like Warner made. 4 guys making 50s isn't 'starts', that's good batting. They batted well and just happened to go out, it happens. You can't make 100s every innings of your life. Lets not forget England are down to 3 decent batsmen, none of whom are in decent form.

Posted by Jeremy303 on (December 5, 2013, 10:50 GMT)

MARK COSGROVE should be in that top-middle order. Smith needs to lift his game, but I think Cossie should replace Rogers at the end of the series.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (December 5, 2013, 10:44 GMT)

This is the era when players cut their international teeth in over-limit formats. The genuine Test class batsman is becoming almost a collector's item because at the back of the mind of the modern batsman is the need to 'get on with it'. As soon as that imp wakes up, typically when outright failure (i.e. a score of 50+ has been put together) has been avoided and -- bang! The careless shot appears & the bat is looked at reproachfully (bad workmen & tools type-thing) as he makes his way back. 50-80 is just fine in most ODIs & a clutch of them will deliver a competitive score in 50 overs. They don't, however, often win Tests, IMO. More & more I'm wondering whether early in a career, a promising bat should either be pointed in the limited overs' direction or told, very clearly, we are grooming you for Test cricket. The successful Test batsman, once established as such, may well transfer to format cricket, but the otherway round means dismantling the wiriing that's already there.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (December 5, 2013, 10:43 GMT)

Nothing new Daniel, what did we expect? I'm happer that at least we have got close to 300 both times, even with collapses, there are positive signs in that Watto and Rogers got a few runs this time, while Warner got some the other game.

Clarke's job just like any other batsmen is to get runs. In the end we just need a good score, it doesn't matter how we get there, it doesn't matter who is getting the runs, even if it is the same guy over and over. Every side is prone to a collapse but hopefully we can minimise their regularity in our batting, but in the mean time, lets just get the runs.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

Catches win matches. And dropped catches can lose them too. Especially on flat and dry pitches. Was a rather sedate days cricket, until just before tea. All batters looked quite comfortable until their respective dismissals. Which is ominous signs for Australia should any of the England top order get set. This Adelaide drop in pitch seems the perfect sort to bat 140+ overs on and really grind away at the opposing bowlers. If England (Australia don't seem to want to) come out with the resolve to do so Australia might be in trouble. However one gets the feeling that England will struggle to do so and we'll most likely see many more wickets being thrown away. Series defining day of cricket ahead tomorrow. Looking forward to it

Posted by HatsforBats on (December 5, 2013, 10:26 GMT)

Well, it seemed as if the ball held up in the pitch but if Anderson did actually bowl a slower ball, well played to him. And Haddin was given not out by the umpire, no good fortune from DRS was involved.

Posted by Biswajit03 on (December 5, 2013, 10:21 GMT)

Australian team was very much confident that is one of the reason there bating failed. i will love to see Australia defeat.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Clarke is soon becoming Misbah of Australia

Posted by Biswajit03 on (December 5, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Australian team was very much confident that is one of the reason there bating failed. i will love to see Australia defeat.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2013, 10:17 GMT)

Similar things were said before the second day of the first Test in Gabba . THe pitch looks like a batting paradise for day 2 and day 3 and Australai were below par. Similarly who knows what would happen tomorrow even if Adelaide is favourable for batting .

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (December 5, 2013, 10:11 GMT)

"minds that had been relatively free of self-recriminating thoughts at the Gabba"

Rinse and repeat the articles after day 1 at the Gabba. Let's see if the critics are right this time. Seems like Daniel forgot how Australia's first innings went last time.

Posted by ScottStevo on (December 5, 2013, 10:11 GMT)

Wow, what an amazing article - batsman in need of scoring runs. Genius!

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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