ADELAIDE, Australia: England face a critical challenge to their four-year Ashes reign in the second Test against Australia starting in Adelaide tomorrow against a re-energised home team looking to drive home their advantage.
Alastair Cook’s tourists were swept away by the Mitchell Johnson-inspired home side in the first Test, going down by the enormous margin 381 runs in a match overshadowed by a sledging barrage from Australian captain Michael Clarke.
It was England’s first defeat in 14 Tests since losing to India in Ahmedabad a year ago, but another loss in Adelaide could prove an insurmountable blow in their bid to hold on to the Ashes after three successive series wins dating back to 2009.
England urgently need to regroup after wilting under Australia’s bowling and verbal barrage in Brisbane, their task made all the more difficult by having to find a replacement at number three following the shock departure of Jonathan Trott with a stress-related illness.
The choice to fill Trott’s spot is between 94-Test veteran Ian Bell and the inexperienced Joe Root, with Zimbabwe-born Gary Ballance likely to slot in at number six after his innings of 55 in Alice Springs in a tour game last week.
England batting coach and former Test captain Graham Gooch was pragmatic about whoever is chosen to fill the crucial number three slot.
“You’ve got to handle it,” he said.
“That’s part of sport. You’ve got to adapt.”
England must find a way to cope with the hostile bowling of Johnson, who was man-of-the-match in Brisbane with a nine-wicket haul, helping dismiss the tourists for 136 and 179.
The left-armer is vowing more of the short stuff but will have different bowling conditions on a drop-in pitch as Adelaide Oval undergoes a transformation into a multi-purpose stadium.
The ground curator said the pitch would offer early spice, prime batting for the five-day duration and reverse swing late in the game
England say they have no problem with Australia’s incessant insults after skipper Clarke was fined by the International Cricket Council for telling England’s Jimmy Anderson to expect a broken arm during the Brisbane Test.
“I have absolutely no problem about any of what the Australians were doing on the field,” Anderson wrote in Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper.
“I probably dish it out more than most in the field, so I generally get it back more than most. I expect it and accept it.”
Australian opener Chris Rogers is promising more aggression in Adelaide after the home side won their first Test since beating Sri Lanka in January.
“They probably haven’t been challenged like that for a while and to have someone like Mitch (Johnson) bowling that fast is great for us. Perhaps they were a little bit rattled and we can use that for the rest of the series,” he said.
England will be looking to their batsmen to post a huge first innings total at the Adelaide Oval, much like they did three years ago when captain Cook (148) and Kevin Pietersen (227) combined to lead the tourists to a daunting 620 for five declared.
Cook’s team went on to inflict an innings and 71-run victory over Australia at the ground -- renowned for big scores -- to take the second Test on their way to a 3-1 series victory.
Michael Clarke’s 230 against South Africa in Adelaide last year was the fourth highest Test score at the famous ground behind Don Bradman’s unbeaten 299 and the Australia skipper has accumulated five tons in eight Adelaide Tests for a ground average of 100.82.
The teams will not get much of a breather after Adelaide, with the third Test starting at Perth’s WACA ground just four days after the scheduled end of the match.AFP