It seems to be a tradition these days to make definitive statements after the opening salvos as to who is on top and which way a game is going. It’s obviously somewhat dull and trying to repeat almost every game that at this stage no one really knows who has the upper hand, but it’s nevertheless still true much of the time, and it’s true here too. 209-4 is a nothing sort of score that could be a good foundation, or it could fall away to as little as 250 depending on how the “crucial” (yes, again) first session goes.
Of course, if you put a side in to bat, you’re hoping for better, but this was a marginal decision either way, and it’s at least possible Australia would have batted anyway, in which case they’d hardly be shouting their delight from the rooftops at this point, particularly when the two most obviously dangerous batsmen – Warner and Smith – are already back in the hutch.
England took only four wickets, one of them a run out, but they also maintained decent control, with Australia managing only 2.5 runs an over. Clearly the Australian media will be piling into their batsmen for being negative. Then again perhaps not. England definitely bowled poorly early on, and given the limited shelf life of the Kookaburra ball, red or pink, they probably threw away their best chance of making serious early inroads. It’s an age old story of England bowlers being at their most effective when they pitch it up and keep it tight on off stump, yet instead bang it in short and wide. Given the 900 Test wickets between the two attack leaders, it is ever the most inexplicable weakness of England in the field.
Post rain break they were much better, forcing the batsmen to play, and inviting them to drive rather more often, and thus looking vastly more dangerous. England lacked a little luck, beating the bat often, turning around Smith in the crease before, finally, taking wickets. They could easily have had more too; Marsh looked reasonably secure late on, but Handscomb led a charmed life, and it is immensely to his credit he survived to the close while looking all at sea.
There is some swing, but not a prodigious amount, and there is some lateral movement, but it’s not jagging about by any means – in other words, a not untypical Adelaide wicket. England have slightly missed an opportunity to really put a dent in Australia, but they’ve not had an appalling day, and a good one tomorrow will put them in a strong position.
It was highly noticeable that England piled in to Australia verbally all day. Good on them too, Australia have been quick to sledge England both on and off the field, so England giving it back is exactly the right approach, and one the hosts shouldn’t be surprised at. It indicates that England have been genuinely annoyed by how much has come their way. It may yet become unedifying, but unless England are to supinely accept the so called banter that’s intended to undermine them then this is exactly what’s going to happen. Any handwringing about it should have happened at Brisbane, and since it appeared to cause Smith some discomfort, more will unquestionably follow.
The new ball is only one over old. England do need to strike early, and strike hard, but they are quite capable of doing that, and if they do then Australia will find themselves under pressure. That’s not being over-optimistic, it’s a recognition that England’s position is far from the disastrous one some would have people believe.
It’s game on, and it’s fairly even. It could have been better, but it could have been worse. Test cricket: it’s not played over one day.
Day Two Comments from all Insomniacs Below