Second Test Represents Best Chance of Victory for England

After a heavy defeat in Brisbane, England now have their sights set on Adelaide. This day/night Test under floodlights with a pink ball is being described as England’s best chance to win a Test match in this series because the conditions should suit them better than Brisbane.

Australia are still firm favourites to win though largely because of the combination of their trio of quick bowlers and the continuing imperious form of Australian captain Steve Smith. His unbeaten 141 in the first Test was one of the all time great Ashes innings and England looked bereft of ideas of how to get him out.

Apart from having gone 1-0 down in the series, England have faced a number of off-pitch distractions – the “will he won’t he” of the Stokes situation and the extraordinary Bairstow headbutt greeting. Australia are favourites to win the test and England have been boosted to a value from 13/5.

The weather

There’s been some rain in Adelaide in the lead up to the Test but the current forecast is fine for the duration of the Test. Pink ball matches tend to be lower scoring so a draw is unlikely.

Conditions and form

This will be the fourth day/night Test Australia have played at the Adelaide Oval and have won all three of the previous ones. Head Coach Darren Lehmann described the pitch as “probably the fastest wicket around Australia at night”. Certainly the pitch quickens up in the evening under the lights which, given how they were blown away in their second innings, is an ominous sign for England although there should be less bounce at Adelaide than Brisbane negating the benefits of the short ball which Australia used so effectively in the first Test.

The pink ball, the lights and the dew mean that this Test should favour the bowlers slightly more than the other matches and is unlikely to go to a fifth day – it’s for it to finish in one of the first two sessions of day four.

The bowlers

If any Test match is going to see James Anderson make hay it should be this one. The pink ball should, in theory, swing more than the red Kookaburra but importantly, there is more scope for reverse swing earlier. Last year when Australia played South Africa at Adelaide, the ball started reversing very early and Australia struggled against Kasigo Rabada. Anderson is to be England’s leading wicket taker.

Of concern for England is their first and second change seam bowlers. Woakes and Ball were both well off the pace in Brisbane – both undercooked having come back from injuries. Woakes’s record overseas is well below his home record but, in the absence of Ben Stokes, he provides important balance to England’s side.

Their biggest worry though is spinner Moeen Ali who was very comfortably outbowled by his spinning counterpart Nathan Lyon. Ali is nursing a cut on his spinning finger and it was very obvious that it was causing him real problems.. He lacked turn, bounce and control. He didn’t train in the nets with England on Thursday and there is some suggestion that legspinner Mason Crane will be brought into the side in place of Jake Ball to be England’s frontline spinner with Ali playing primarily as a batsman. It’s a high risk strategy, Crane has never played Test cricket before and he’s very young although talented enough to have been in the frame to play Sheffield Shield cricket last year.

Australia, on the other hand, have no worries with their four man attack. Both Starc and Cummins bowled with pace and intensity and Hazlewood with impressive accuracy. Starc has an impressive record with the pink ball averaging 22.75 with it which is better than his career average of 28.08.

The batsmen

Steve Smith is, understandably, favourite to be top scorer for Australia. His average in the last three day/night Tests is 59.83 – only a little under his overall average of 61.23. Opener Cameron Bancroft, on debut, looked well organised. He’s at to be Australia’s top scorer and provided he can negotiate any lateral movement seems to have the mentality to handle the pressure of Ashes cricket. Lower down the order

One of the positives England can take from the first Test is that their rookies – Stoneman, Vince and Malan all made half centuries and looked unfazed by the pressure. Stoneman in particular looks at home and has a technique that suits Australian conditions. He’s at to be England’s top scorer.

Alastair Cook has had a poor run of form leading into the series but it never pays to write off England’s highest ever run scorer and has scored big runs in his last two matches involving a pink ball (193 for Essex in the County Championship and 243 against West Indies at Edgbaston) although they were against far weaker opposition. He is to be England’s top scorer.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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