Remember the days, when the Australians would invite any side in the world for a “home series”, then start the series with bang huge first win. Or some rare times the hosts might even stumble and have a few hiccups in game one, however, would iron out all the chinks by the next one and start that in a splendid fashion. This went on for almost two decades, barring one upset loss at Adelaide to India in 2003-04. Well, things have changed now. Last week Australia started Ashes in a splendid fashion by dismissing England for 260 on a batting beauty, however, four days later were at the receiving end as England in second innings piled up 1/517. In the past Australians would bounce back at home at their favorite venue Adelaide, but not this time!
The only thing Ponting did right on the day was calling it right at the toss, but he was soon made to question his decision to bat first as the scorecard read 3 down for 2 runs. The proceedings at Adelaide began with an exciting first over. Katich ran himself out on the fourth ball for a duck and skipper, who came in next, got a golden duck. Ponting , trying to drive the very first ball, only managed to edge the Anderson out swinger to Swann at second slips. Two overs later was an action replay with same bowler-fielder combination and the batsman was Clarke. Australia was reeling at 3/2 and the top order woes were exposed yet again. Ponting, since the retirement of four big stars, has averaged 42.95 (career average 54.47) over 35 tests in 3 years with only 5 tons and I still don’t Chappell’s mirror coming out yet.
Wato joined hands with ever dependable Hussey in a rescue operation. Wato scored a neat half century before becoming Anderson’s third victim. North played support role to Hussey in a 60 run stand and by now Australian total was somewhat decent at 5/156. Hussey came very close to score his third ashes ton in as many tests, before falling prey to a big turner from Swann. He made a superb 93, the highlight of the Australian innings. Haddin, made a vital contribution yet again, this time with a fifty, however couldn’t take Australia past 250 mark as they were bundled up for 245. Anderson was the pick of the bowlers with 4/51 and everyone else chipped in too. England openers negotiated the only over they played without much fuss.
At the end of day one, Australia must find themselves on the back foot. They would need a miraculous bowling effort from their limited bowling arsenal or some thoughtless batting from the opponents or may be even the combination of the two, if they don’t want England to run away with the game. Going by the first test, it would appear to be safe to put your bets on English batsman, especially after their 1/517 performance on a day 4 and day 5 pitch. But, cricket is a funny game, hero one day can become a zero the next day. They key to big score for England would be an anchoring role from Cook and then later from Collingwood. If England can get Pieterson to fire and have Starus, Trott, and Bell bat as well as they did in game one, then they can bat Australia out in the first innings itself.
England’s plan should be to occupy crease for at least next days. Australia would be keen on wrapping the opponent’s innings on day two. Bollinger and Harris are two bowlers playing after sometime, so they must be fresh, but also might be a bit rusty and tomorrow would be their test. Newcomer Doherty would be crucial for their bowling success though. Day one exposed Australia’s top order woes, would day two expose their weak-links in bowling or would it expose England’s somewhat out of form middle order, we would have to wait and see. Exciting day of cricket awaits us all ahead at Adelaide. Probably the day that might have a huge impact on Ponting’s future as a skipper.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav