Australia v England, 5th ODI, Adelaide

England play out familiar farce

A slow Adelaide Oval pitch eventually set up a hectic chase and fascinating conclusion, with England's capitulation reminiscent of the Champions Trophy final

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Adelaide Oval

January 26, 2014

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

England's players look on during the presentations, Australia v England, 5th ODI, Adelaide, January 26, 2014
Eoin Morgan and Joe Root fell in succession after England had been 3 for 154 © Getty Images
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Like the generous guests they have been over what seems to have been the worst part of an eternity, England's own manners got the better of them. On Australia Day, at the South Australia house that's yet to be rebuilt, they reacted to scuttling out their hosts on the cheap with an all too familiar apology of a defeat.

No sooner had Australia lifted the Carlton Mid Trophy, England made their excuses and left. Some of them will head home, including Alastair Cook, who must have lost a foot or so in height over the last three months. Others will head on to Hobart, where the Twenty20 slap and tickle begins. Today was all slap.

The Adelaide Oval has still managed to maintain its beauty, despite parts of its inside and surround areas resembling a neglected building site. The meeting of old and new world is uneasy, like teaching your grandma how to use the internet, only to receive a friend request on Facebook from her a week later. The intentions are admirable but at what cost?

The use of drop-in pitches here is a major part of the ground's redevelopment and many feel they rob the place of its charm. The MCG has shown that drop-ins are a must for a stadium organisation looking to flourish by hosting a greater variety of events but the Adelaide regulars who have spent the last month passing the same set of diggers shifting the same rubble are not so sure.

A footbridge offering a third path across the River Torrens is yet to be fully opened, despite the fact it was supposed to be ready before the Ashes Test at the beginning of December. The Eastern Stand, undergoing a facelift to increase the ground's capacity by 10,000, was vacant but for a couple of security guards and an array of orange cones on the middle deck. While the atmosphere was lopsided, the absence of anyone with uncontrollable flapping arms on one whole side of the ground meant that Mexican waves were given the little enthusiasm or encouragement they deserve.

At the halfway stage, the pitch was the main point of contention. Historically, those cultivated within the boundary offered something for all concerned, particularly across five days of a Test match. But since reverting to drop-ins, curators Les Burdett and Damian Hough have struggled to impart their old touch on the outer earth.

Western Australia head coach, Justin Langer, felt the preparation of Adelaide's pitches needed to be readdressed after his side were involved in a Sheffield Shield encounter where 1,237 runs were scored across the four days. The ODI track was far from November's "batting paradise" but turned out to be a sluggish surface that, while absent of demons, had enough in it to prey on indecision. At halfway, it was dreary.

 
 
Watching Bopara, usually an excellent player of spin, play Doherty out for a maiden in the batting Powerplay as Australia's ring fielders sniffed blood was excruciating
 

All bar one of Australia's wickets fell through batsmen trying to force shots; James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter- Nile could be excused, while the one anomaly, Aaron Finch (bowled by a ball that ducked back in), gave two catching chances that were both put down.

A target of 218 always looked short but, after seeing how even patience wasn't rewarded - evidenced by George Bailey's vain attempt at turning nearly two hours of crease time into more than his 56 (the top score of the match) - you felt a hectic chase in the offing. Ten of the England XI were also present at Edgbaston last year in the Champions Trophy Final against India. The similarities between the two capitulations are far too great to brush off as coincidence.

Both times, set batsmen put on a partnership - Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara then; Morgan and Joe Root now - that had seemingly broken the back of the chase, before both falling to miscalculations. The lower order then dithered and allowed a required run rate to climb to ultimately insurmountable heights. Both ended in five-run defeats and the ignominy of having to stand there as the coloured confetti of their rivals showered them like spittle.

It's hard not to think that, were Australia chasing, they would have tried to get the lion's share of the work done with their top order. Of course, much of that is down to the composition of their side but it is a side that knows how to pace a chase. When to stick, when to twist; how to spread the fielders, how to exploit that gap.

Watching Bopara, usually an excellent player of spin, play Xavier Doherty out for a maiden, in the penultimate over of the batting Powerplay as Australia's ring fielders sniffed blood, was excruciating. It reeked of a "as long as we have balls in hand" approach that is now far too conservative for modern ODI cricket. If you were given a dollar for every English dab behind point you would have enough to pay the $560 fine for taking to the field to plead with the batsmen to try something else.

It was a fascinating conclusion and one to add to the "low chase - big finish" scrapbook, one that would not have happened without the dreary first half. If we have learned anything objective in this ODI series it is that, while Perth may not be as quick, Sydney might not turn as much and Adelaide is still working itself out, Australia still has its variety - an important factor a year out from the World Cup. It could be a cracker.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Hammond on (January 28, 2014, 1:44 GMT)

@ScottStevo- no matter, I'm sure South Africa will provide me with fresh memories of Aussie torment to help me forget, just like Aussie cricket fans forgot about being whitewashed in India. Go the saffers!

Posted by ScottStevo on (January 27, 2014, 11:21 GMT)

@Hammond, It's so weird that you, being Australian, are having such a hard time enjoying 'our' success. Hope those awful memories stick with you forever - possibly then you'll learn a little respect for those around you rather than shooting your mouth off.

Posted by wickdwitch on (January 27, 2014, 8:52 GMT)

Also, I don't know how it felt for those watching on TV, but at the ground the crowd were well behaved (a wave with barely a plastic cup thrown went round many times), and quite invested in the game - and very people appeared to leave before the end of the game. It was if (shock, HORROR) they were there to watch the game of cricket.

BTW - the MCG would not hold the crowds it does without football (AFL) - it basically paid for the Great Southern Stand, and 90,000+ would have a few times a season at the Ground. Footy in winter pays for decent crickeet grounds/facilities in summer.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2014, 8:52 GMT)

@ Vithushan Ehantharajah. A great read (also enjoyed your video diaries), but most of all, I'm very impressed you take the time to read the comments in your article, and publicly man up and pledge to research when corrected. If only all journalists were more like this. P.S. I do feel sorry for the poms but I hope they did enjoy their 2 day taste of victory out of an entire summer ;) On to the Twenty20's!

Posted by   on (January 27, 2014, 8:28 GMT)

I agree with one of the responses, though it was a low chase it was a fantastic game of cricket and it just shows what sustained pressure can do to any team. England really needs to sort out its fielding , how could they keep dropping Finch like they did ? I think England is poorer for the absence of KP and Swann who sadly has retired . I guess Butler's wicket was key and Stokes played like some of the australians . Enjoyed watching the game . Ramanujam Sridhar

Posted by Hammond on (January 27, 2014, 8:26 GMT)

And so ends the worst summer of cricket in my lifetime. The devil can take the T20's they mean even less than the odi's. Just thankful that the football season is coming to wash away the awful memories.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2014, 5:15 GMT)

@Josh & Wickdwitch: Apologies for that - will look to get the info re: footbridge and stand name amended.

Posted by kepler22b on (January 27, 2014, 1:47 GMT)

'...hosting a greater variety of events' - it's called footy mate. It might be a parochial sport but its what pays for the joint. The WACA has missed out and they are building a brand new 60k stadium in Perth - not for cricket but, yes, that's right - footy. Meanwhile the WACA falls apart and will be demolished and turned into luxury housing within 10 years.

'...allowed a required run rate to climb to ultimately insurmountable heights' - the run rate never had anything to do with it - choking more like it. It was only more than 1 run per ball in the last few overs.

I love my cricket. It was nice to see a good contest between bat and ball rather than who can hit 350 through top edged hooks and pushes over mid off to roped in boundaries. After all its not called 'batting' its called Cricket.

Posted by wickdwitch on (January 27, 2014, 1:45 GMT)

Interesting article, with some good points, but some small factual issues. The footbridge was (and is) not due to be fully operational until March 2014 - it was available (and incomplete) and safe for use for the 5 days of the Ashes Test - as it was supposed to be - I used it! Otherwise a good article. I was at the game and only thought we had a chance if we got rid of Root and Morgan prior to the 40th over ... but was still worried right until the last wicket fell. Re Bopara - I think the first replay showed him out, and the subsequent replay after replay was to try and find a way to give him 'not out'.

Posted by Mescalito on (January 26, 2014, 23:51 GMT)

Ummmm Stewart Barnes England didn't lose because Bopara was rightly given out. They once again dropped easy catches and gave their wickets away when they were on top. Root, Morgan, Besnan were all stupid wickets that cost England the game. Blame a flukey stumping and the team will never improve.

Posted by spex750 on (January 26, 2014, 23:44 GMT)

@Stewart Barnes, not gonna happen. Borderline stumpings, runouts and "did it carry" decisions have been going to the third umpire long before DRS was introduced, and even now they don't count as part of the review system. Field umpires just aren't in a position to make those kinds of split-second calls.

Posted by   on (January 26, 2014, 22:01 GMT)

Vitu is spot on saying that the Aussies would have approached the chase in a completely different way. You could almost hear Giles say to the team - "don't lose wickets, it's a moderate total, and if you bat 50 overs you will get the runs". Where as Lehmann would have said: "Just go out and hit the ball hard, if we get the runs in 40 overs, even better - gives us time for an extra drink." If England do not change their selection and attitude towards playing ODI then they will have learnt nothing from the losses and will be in no better shape for the World Cup. They need far more aggressive players than Cook, Root, Ballance and Bopara. A team that COULD challenge for the WC2015 might be: Hales, Wright, Bell, KP, Morgan (c), Moeen (also to bowl spin), Buttler, Stokes, Broad, Jordan, Anderson. Then you have the firepower on good Australian wickets.

Posted by   on (January 26, 2014, 21:31 GMT)

"The meeting of old and new world is uneasy, like teaching your grandma how to use the internet, only to receive a friend request on Facebook from her a week later. The intentions are admirable but at what cost?" Said like someone who knows and understands Generation Y. To the cricket, his point is valid. The way England plays should be secure enough to get to those 300+ scores that are now so necessary in ODI cricket. Personally, I think that England's old school approach can work and can work quite well. This series has been a poor illustration of it because many of the players were already browbeaten from the Ashes drubbing. England needs to regroup, regain its mojo, and be ready to contest its next series in a much better frame of mind.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (January 26, 2014, 21:28 GMT)

@PrasPunter: Totally disagree with you. For the most part, Aussie pitches are fast and bouncy. The only venue where the pitch can be a little slow is Adelaide. But this pitch was even slower because its a drop-in. Out of the 6 or so venues in Australia, 5 of them are similar with Adelaide being the only 1 that resembles a subcontinental surface. That doesn't equate to variety of any kind.

Posted by   on (January 26, 2014, 20:53 GMT)

I'd like to clarify a few parts of what was mentioned about Adelaide Oval: The footbridge over the Torrens was open for use, but not completed, for the Test match, and was used very heavily. The arrangement was that it would be used for the Test and then completed, which is why it is currently closed. The Western Grandstand was full. I was in there. The EASTERN stand, however, had more than a facelift (the Chappell Stands were demolished and the new Eastern stand is due for completion in March). I think it's important that facts such as these are correct.

Posted by md111 on (January 26, 2014, 20:30 GMT)

If this had been the series decider it could have been and Bopara had actually looked like he was going to take England to victory then that 3rd umpire decision would be subject to lots of discussion. As it stands not sure Bopara would have taken England across the line anyway, as said in the article batting out a maiden in the powerplay isn't good enough and balls in hand isn't the way anymore. England as always taking time to catch up with the rest.

Posted by   on (January 26, 2014, 16:30 GMT)

Not saying we deserved to win,but Bopara should not have been given out,there Was too much doubt etc. If he had stayed England probably would have won,let's do away with replays!

Posted by PrasPunter on (January 26, 2014, 15:12 GMT)

Well said Vitu !!! Australian wickets are a beauty !! Never would one see pitches with this kind of variations, elsewhere. And to top it all, they are not doctored to suit the home team!!

Posted by Cyril_Knight on (January 26, 2014, 14:43 GMT)

A nice article Vitu, great to see you given a go at the big matches. I look forward to more. You will still be doing Surrey reports this summer, I hope so?

It's nice to finally get a different perspective on England's failings, rather than the droll Dobell and infuriatingly sarcastic Kimber. I shall be lobbying on your behalf.

I've nothing to add to this piece, which is great. Well batted!

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