There was drama at the Adelaide Oval before a ball was even bowled on the first day of the Second Ashes Test Match.
A COVID scare ruled the Australian captain, Pat Cummins – deemed a close contact, out of the match, handing a Test debut to Michael Neser and thrusting Steve Smith back into the position of captaincy.
Meanwhile, England’s selections, tactics, and problems with the over-rate continued to present themselves as Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner batted Australia to a strong position at stumps on Day 1.
Here are the moments that mattered on Day 1 at the Adelaide Oval.
COVID Chaos throws Cricket Australia into panic mode hours before first ball
You can run, you can vaccinate, you can hide, but COVID will still manage to get you.
Everyone was sent scrambling when it was revealed on the morning of Day 1 that Australian captain and spearhead Pat Cummins was set to be ruled out of the match after coming into contact with a positive COVID case. Cummins was dining in at a restaurant when he was alerted by a patron sitting next to him that he was COVID positive and immediately left the establishment and isolated until further developments.
His absence meant that Steve Smith would be elevated too and return to the post as Test captain and Michael Neser, who had been in the Australian Test squad for the past 25 Test matches, will finally make his Test debut. Albeit in bizarre circumstances.
Cummins’ absence means that for the first time ever, Australia will have three different captains in three consecutive Test matches. It also means that Australia will play a Test match in Australia, without Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood for the first time since the Adelaide Test in 2014 against India. Josh Hazelwood debuted the following week in Brisbane.
It’s the story that sent everyone flashing back to Edgbaston 2005 when Glenn McGrath was ruled out after a mishap in the morning. The complexion of that 2005 series changed then and there. What knock-on impacts will this story have.
Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley confirmed that Cummins had tested negative and will now isolate for seven days per South Australian Health regulations.
Broad and Warner resume battle of wits and probes
After accounting for him 8 times in the previous Ashes series in the UK, Stuart Broad finally got the chance to stand at the top of his mark and bowl around the wicket to David Warner again.
Almost with immediate effect too. His first ball had Warner leaving on length, which sparked a huge appeal from Broad and the English slips cordon.
It was a probing first over which reminded Warner of his horrors in the UK, but also would have further solidified to England that they missed a trick by not playing him first up in Brisbane.
Broad was a handful with the new ball, troubling Warner early on, claiming the wicket of Harris, and then went up for a huge shout on the third ball of Labuschagne’s innings which they sent upstairs for a review.
Warner continued to counter punch and bat carefully but with purpose, pushing through the pain barrier with his ribs to continue punching the ball around the Adelaide Oval.
His dismissal, caught by Broad funnily enough ran right against the flow of play, falling for 95, falling in the nineties for the second consecutive time and only third time in his career.
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Another Harris failure increases pressure
Marcus Harris was given the trust and the backing of head selector George Bailey pre-series that this was his chance to get an extended run at cementing his spot as Australian opener. After a lean performance in Brisbane (3 &9*), he would get an early opportunity to impress and release pressure and tension, batting first at the Adelaide Oval.
Although, courtesy of a blinding catch by Jos Buttler, after being strangled down the leg side by a returning Stuart Broad, Harris could only muster the three runs, his third single-figure score in three innings to start the Ashes.Embed from Getty Images
Pressure is starting to mount. Harris now has eight single-figure scores in his last 13 test innings and now averages 9.12 with only 73 runs scored against England. With a squad to be announced ahead of Boxing Day for the remaining Tests, a strong showing in the second innings might not even be enough to save Harris. Bailey now faces a test as to whether or not he makes a change or backs Marcus in as options begin to queue up.
No swing as Over-rate headache likely to continue for Root and England
England decided from the moment they arrived in Australia that this was the Test match that was going to kickstart and set up thier Ashes series. They loaded up in Adelaide, with the pink ball in hand and having selected a five-man strong seam attack, opting to leave spinner Jack Leach out of the starting XI after the battering he copped at the Gabba.
After being fined heavily for a slow over-rate in Brisbane, the eyes were on England as to how urgent they would be moving between the overs, with the bowling attack they had picked.
Notwithstanding three lengthy DRS challenges in the first hour of play, England only managed to bowl 25 overs in the first session of play.
Joe Root, the lone slow bowling option in the side bowled for close to 45 minutes unbroken at one end in the final session to speed up the over-rate to ensure that his bowlers at least got some time with the new ball before the scheduled close of play. England took the new ball with 37 minutes left in the day’s play and finished only one over short of the scheduled 90 overs.Embed from Getty Images
A second consecutive over-rate penalty could lead to bigger consequences for England with suspensions to captains having been dished out by the ICC in the past for slow over rates and accrued charges.
Marnus’ pink ball love affair continues after Buttler chances
He was disappointed with himself after letting a hundred go begging up in Brisbane, Marnus Labuschagne responded the only way Marnus knows how; Scoring runs.
He had some fortune, being dropped twice by Jos Buttler on 21 and 95, and will have to wait till tomorrow to bring up his 6th Test century, finishing on 95* at stumps on Day 1.Embed from Getty Images
A graphic displayed by Channel 7, showed just how much Marnus loves batting against the Pink ball. Before today, Marnus averaged 82 against the pink ball with 2 centuries. Tonight, he raised that average into the nineties and looks poised to reach his sixth Test match century tomorrow and finally bring up his first against England when he resumes tomorrow.
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