Ashes 2013-14: Four talking points as England face heavy defeat
Ashes 2013-14: What lessons did we learn as England edged closer to defeat in the second Ashes Test?
Early declaration shows Aussie optimism
Having ended day three on 132-3, Australia went into Sunday flaunting a preliminary lead of 531 runs. Initially it seemed Australia were set to bat on, at least partially, through the morning session, quickly adding to the already colossal target awaiting England’s batsmen. Moments before David Warner and Steve Smith were due to resume their innings at the crease, however, an end was called to their 67-run partnership and Australia opted to declare. The late decision doubtless threw Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry slightly, though they may well have expected such a decision, and subsequently deprived both of any time to prepare themselves whilst fielding. Suddenly aware that they faced two long days to bat through in order to save the Test, the turnaround clearly affected their composure: within two overs Cook had lost his wicket. The decision to declare, rather than add a few more runs and push the total nearer to 600, demonstrates the confidence racing through the Australian camp at present and how little they fear England even coming close to 500.
Worst possible start
If ever there was an innings in which England needed to utilise time in order to settle, develop some confidence and hopefully give Australia something to think about, it was this one. Tasked with two days to either slowly see out the game or go for a gung-ho victory, it was essential that the openers at least built a relatively sturdy platform for England’s other out-of-sorts batsmen upon which they could go forward. So when Cook was caught by Ryan Harris at long leg after top-edging Mitchell Johnson inside two overs England’s mountainous undertaking became even steeper. With arguably their best batsman having recorded his lowest Test match aggregate since 2009, it is a tell-tale sign of how this series has developed for the visitors so far. Once England’s captain had walked it was almost inevitable that others would oblige, and Carberry was caught not long after by Nathan Lyon at deep square leg for a mere 14.
Day five holders hoping for refunds
For the first time in this series, England successfully batted through the day, and fortunately those waking up this morning were not greeted by yet another “Johnson destroys England” news headline. Michael Vaughan sees this as a positive, and also pointed out Joe Root’s mature performance at number three; making 87 before getting an inside edge off of Lyon which was caught by Brad Haddin. Despite these bright spots, the visitors now go into the final day of the Test at Adelaide on 247-6, needing another 284 runs for victory win devoid of any remaining specialist batsme. Matt Prior (31no) and Stuart Broad (22no) have done well to add to the seventh wicket, but considering Prior’s recent batting form it will be no surprise to see this match all over by lunch time. Those with tickets for this final day might be disappointed to not catch more action, but stranger things have happened and Monty Panesar may surpass his Test best of 25 and score a game-changing century…
Let it rain
Not many people travel to Australia expecting bad weather, but rain may yet be the best luck that England get on their tour Down Under if the meteorologists are doing their job correctly. Weather reports are suggesting showers in Adelaide until 13:30 local time, with outbreaks of sunshine, and Jonathan Agnew is predicting light showers in the area all day. Considering England’s current form most people will be holding out for this outcome which would put a real dampener (no pun intended) on Australia’s momentum and potentially serve as a late reprieve for the Poms, increasing the chance of the series remaining at 1-0. If this transpires then it would surely be a kick in the teeth for the hosts who would miss out on virtually sealing the series and England would be buoyed by the feeling that the game is back on. Graeme Swann, Jimmy Anderson and Panesar will all be praying for rain over facing Mitchell Johnson.