Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Opportunity Knocks In The City of Chuches

Everyone ready for round two? To the City of Churches and the most picturesque ground on the Ashes trail.

Unfortunately it was also the scene of England's incredible defeat on the last tour in 2006, despite declaring its first innings on 551. Collingwood, with a double century, and Pietersen with 158 were the main protagonists. England led by 38 runs on first innings but then collapsed to 129 second time round at the hands of McGrath, Lee and, chiefly, that man Shane Warne. Australia polished off the 168 needed to win with ease, losing only 4 wickets and going at a rate of more than 5 an over. The beginning of the end for that calamitous tour.

Fast forward 4 years and Australia can no longer call on that famous trio of bowlers and instead finds itself in a right old pickle about the best attack to pick to take 20 English wickets. Mitchell Johnson is certainly out, that much was confirmed today. His reaction was a world away from the arrogance and big talk that preceded the first test:

"In the end, I need to work things out, go to net sessions, get back in the gym, get my head straight, and get back into the team."

Strange he never mentioned these mental frailties before Brisbane. He'd be advised to add a lesson in humility to his recovery plans.

This means that the new men, Harris and Bollinger, will compete with Hilfenhaus for two spots. Siddle is the only front-line bowler secure in his position and he only made the cut for the first test because of fitness doubts over Bollinger. The Aussie players and management have been quick to downplay talk of England gaining the psychological upper hand in Brisbane, pointing to the fact that the series remains tied. But they will be praying they win the toss and bat for as long as possible to give their bowlers a break.

England will be hoping for exactly the opposite, not only to wear down the Australian attack but also to get the chance of bowling last on a wicket that tends to deteriorate on days 4 and 5. In turn, this this will give Graeme Swann the perfect opportunity to make his mark on the series. No selection problems for the England set-up. The same side will take the field and the bowlers should be fresh, a bonus considering they are playing back-to-back tests. A session of bowling with their tails up on the final day in Brisbane was perfect preparation, even if they could only manage one Australian wicket.

The batsmen must repeat the heroics of the second innings rather than squander their wicket when well set, as happened on day one. A big total will be needed whether they bat first or second and centurions will be required. The top three have shown the way, Pietersen and Collingwood must now cash in at Adelaide, just as they did 4 years ago. Ian Bell will be itching to get to the middle again, such was his form at the Gabba, while Prior certainly owes the teams some runs. A strong showing is expected.

An even more crucial toss than the Gabba. As Warney wrote in his column for the local paper today, "As a rule, if you win the toss and bat big in the first innings, its hard to lose." True everywhere, but doubly so here.

Tails for Wales never it right Straussy.

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