18/04/2024

more the same: Joe Root is once again looking for answers on an Ashes tour down under. Image: cricket.com.au

It's a familiar tale for England in the Second Ashes Test in Adelaide, with questions of what has actually changed coming thicker and faster.

Joe Root led a side to Australia in 2017 in place of the urn and with a seam attack led by two of the greatest fast bowlers of possibly all time.

The batting was brittle, held together by Root himself who in 2017, wasn’t quite on another level to all his teammates but was so far in front and his team’s most important cog to ensure any chance of victory.

A heavy defeat in Brisbane in 2017 rolled into Adelaide wherewith the seam quality of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and swing bowler Chris Woakes, the English would be able to extract all the movement and use the pink ball and the conditions to thier advantage.

Australia piled up 8d/442 in thier first innings courtesy of a big Shaun Marsh 126* and contributions and stats all the way down the list. The three bowlers listed above combined for innings figures of 88 overs,20 maidens 4/ 230.

England ended up losing that Test by 120 runs and a week later, Australia reclaimed the urn with an innings victory at the WACA and have held it ever since.

Before this series began, Joe Root declared that his England team would “do things differently to how we’ve done them” on previous Ashes tours.

Four years later, England arrived at the Adelaide Oval, again after a heavy defeat in Brisbane but this time by nine wickets, with the thoughts that by lumping all their eggs in a pink ball filled basket, with some minor changes up and down the order, things would be different.

But what is different exactly from 2017 to now?

Joe Root is still the glue to the batting order and instead of one or two steps ahead of everyone else, he is a galaxy ahead of the next best England batter in 2021. almost 1,000 runs to be exact.

Ben Stokes is here, England’s talisman who can do freakish things on the cricket field. He wasn’t here last time and has the capability of going bonkers at any time. As does Jos Buttler who does it time and time again against the white ball but is yet to make a meaningful impression against the red ball and in the whites.

Not to mention his confidence after shelling two chances on Day One against Marnus Labuschagne who went onto his sixth test century in his 33rd innings.

So what about the bowling? James Anderson, at 39 years of age is still here and still charging in and banging it on a length. Stuart Broad is also still here, 35 years young, headbanded to try to look younger. Still causing the odd batter a few jitters but largely thwarted by an Australian team who has seen him here before and knows how to control him.

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Chris Woakes is also here. So good with a white ball in hand and so goo with a red ball in hand in his home conditions. Take him overseas and it’s an entirely different commodity, his record 6 Tests, 27 wickets, averaging 54.59.

England’s bowlers sent down 150 overs as Australia piled up 9d/473 in the sweltering Adelaide sun. Anderson, Broad, and Woakes, the centerpieces to England’s all-out seam attack finishing with collective figures of  78.4 overs, 22 maidens 4/234.

As England fans wake up in the UK and assess the damage of another tour down under going pear-shaped, questions will surely be asked just what on early have they been doing in planning for the past 4 years to get here?

Injuries are part of the game. If you ask Chris Silverwood, he probably would have donated his own limbs if he could to ensure both Jofra Archer and Olly Stone, two of England’s fastest bowlers were fit and ready for the tour. Silverwood knew he needed pace in Australia. A point of difference.

Something to make the Australian batters think that this might trouble us for a few minutes here or there.

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England’s one really quick bowler Mark Wood was in the nets again at the main break today, bowling full tilt at reserve top-order batter Zak Crawley, in a bid to stay match fit and probably prove a point to the England selectors.

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Wood was noticeably the point of difference in Brisbane, accounting for Steve Smith for just 12, hurried by the extra pace. A luxury for Root considering Smith, over the Ashes series Root has captained has been the immovable object, amassing 1,461 runs from 2,612 balls, including six centuries, at an average of 121.75.

After only 25 overs in the first test match, in a must-win game, surely you do away from the familiarity of what is on the PowerPoint presentation ahead of the series and, not make it up as you go, but re-jig and rework to ensure that you don’t fall into the same traps and make the same mistakes again?

Even with injuries and crazy COVID circumstances unsettling the Australian camp prior to the start of play, England is falling into the same patterns and combinations that have led them nowhere previously. Come tomorrow, Joe Root will walk out to bat, again at two down for not many, and know that he is his country’s close to only hope if they are to go into Boxing Day with any flicker of hope in the series remaining alive.

A heavy burden to carry for the skipper with so much to think about, but the creative juices must get flowing to avoid his own words being rendered no more than just false promises.

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