21/04/2024

Brains trust: England coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root have some thinking to do to kickstart their Ashes campaign. Image: Martin Rickett

England arrives in Adelaide looking to square the Ashes series, but the tourists are facing headaches after lumping all their eggs in one pink basket

England arrives in Adelaide already behind the eight ball. An all too familiar feeling for the men from ol blighty on a tour down under.

While there were external factors at play that hampered preparation, with la Nina weather destroying any meaningful match practice for the tourists, arrived at the Gabba underdone and left with their tails firmly between their legs.

England arrived in Australia having hoped they’d planned accordingly to get out of Brisbane having shown enough to suggest this tour would provide a different outcome, but gambling on the fact that the game would be severely impacted by Brisbane’s weather that had ruined so much of their preparation.

But it was too many gambles for England. Especially at the start of the series. Decisions made at the selection table and at the toss have come back to bite them hard.

It would appear that they have gone all in on winning the Adelaide Test. Getting out of Brisbane largely unscathed, it might have worked but looking back in hindsight, it has only created more headaches for the tourists.

The gamble of leaving both James Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the first XI in Brisbane threatens to create a selection headache for the rest of the series that could have been so easily avoided.

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Both are included in the matchday squad and are expected to be named in the final XI tomorrow when Joe Root walks out to do the toss, but who makes way?

Mark Wood has never played two tests in a row his whole career, mainly due to his body frailty to that’s one swap. Particularly when England coach Chris Silverwood knows he will need pace in Australia, particularly on the upcoming flatter wickets in Melbourne and Sydney.

Ollie Robinson looked the most dangerous of the England seam attack and looms as the centerpiece of this attack for all 5 Tests, having impressed many in his first outing on Australian shores.

The likely other pace candidate to make way, of the quintet that played at Brisbane is Chris Woakes. Woakes didn’t have his best game at the Gabba, but in favorable conditions in Adelaide, with a pink ball, can swing the ball and play to his strengths as he does with aplomb in white-ball cricket. Woakes also had his most impactful game of the last Ashes series down under in Adelaide, with the pink ball swinging under lights and nipping it around the following day.

Omitting Woakes would also lengthen England’s tail, heaping more pressure on the fragile top order and skipper Joe Root.

They would be tempted to leave out spinner Jack Leach, who was taken apart by the Australian batters at the Gabba, slapped for 1/102 off his 13 overs bowled in the first innings. Dom Bess is in the squad as the second frontline spinner and could replace him in the starting XI. The thoughts of England potentially leaving out a front-line spinner were dashed when the side was fined 100% of their collective match fees for a slow over-rate and docked World Test Championship points as part of the sanction.

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You can understand England’s thought process and why they would have targeted Adelaide from the get-go. They may also look at Hobart and think the same thoughts as thier two legitimate chances to win some games this series and test this Australian side at home, in their own conditions much like a resilient and plucky Indian side last year.

But all the best-laid plans can turn to dust once you go into the field of battle, and for England, things turned to dust pretty early on. As you would hope it would when you are bundled out in the first innings of the series in a session and a half.

Australia finally learned in 2019 that you have to be flexible and change plans on the run with different setups and different makeups of the side that boded so well for them and helped them retain the urn. England will once again need to take a leaf out of the old enemy’s book if they are to look to ensure this tour isn’t like the two that have preceded.

We will know come 1:30 pm tomorrow when Joe Root walks out for the toss if all thier eggs are still firmly in the one pink ball basket.

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