Despite his timely return from a back injury, Tim Bresnan misses out on a place in the England squad for this second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval. Instead Alastair Cook and co have opted for Essex’s Monty Panesar as a second spinner and, slightly more surprisingly, 22-year-old all-rounder Ben Stokes. With England 1-0 down in the series and Australia having already stated that there will be no let-up in their intensity, handing Stokes his Test debut in favour of the tried-and-tested Bresnan will no doubt divide opinion. Geoffrey Boycott has called this a “big call” from the selectors. Since Stokes will be playing as the third seamer on a pitch which is shaping up well for the Australian batsmen, the pressure will be present from the start. Michael Clarke has described Adelaide a “fantastic place to bat,” despite memories of Australia quickly finding themselves at 2-3 in 2010. If Stokes performs the selection will ultimately be vindicated, but that is a big if. New Zealand-born Stokes has played 10 one-day internationals for England, with a highest score of 27 from six innings. He has taken six international wickets with 110 in his first-class career at 28.24. With Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and David Warner all lining up to protect their series lead, however, the pressure is well and truly on for England to get their campaign going.
Ninety-one overs and three rain delays later, Australia finished the day on 273-5. The scoreline suggests a fairly even match after one day’s play, and certainly both sides enjoyed dominant spells which they took advantage of. David Warner got off to a quick start, ominously picking up where he left off in Brisbane, but Broad took his wicket before he really got going. Then the Aussies reaped the rewards of a flat pitch, reaching a solid 155-1 before three quick wickets left them uneasy at 174-4. Three missed catches and an 83-run fifth wicket partnership between George Bailey and captain Michael Clarke though left Australia with the upper hand at the close. Former England captains Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss have conveniently praised the squad selection and performance of the side on day one, but despite this optimism Australia will likely be the happier side. They have had the best possible start; they won the coin toss and elected to bat for starters. Shane Warne pointed out that there are plenty of runs on this pitch, and with the in-form Michael Clarke resuming at the crease, with Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson still to come, Australia will be confident of reaching 400. Graeme Swann spoke at the end of the day’s play of restricting Australia to 350. It is optimistic, but you can’t rule anything out.
Catch it, catch it, catch it, came the shouts. Dropped, dropped, dropped, was the result each time. It was moments like these that could easily have swung the momentum in England’s favour – in fact Australia may have already been all out had all three missed catches one been successfully caught. The worst of the lot was Michael Carberry’s clanger towards the close when he dropped what could be described as a “sitter” when Haddin palmed it to him from Monty Panesar. As Geoff Boycott so eloquently put, it is already common knowledge that Monty Panesar can’t field for toffee (hardly a consolation but nevertheless), whilst Joe Root would have caught the ball he dropped seven times out of 10, according to Michael Vaughan. Had these catches been taken though then Clarke’s, Haddin’s and Bailey’s spells at the crease would have been significantly curtailed. Hypothetically, the balance would rest very much in England’s favour, and they would have taken even greater gratification from their efforts in the field. What makes this scenario even more frustrating for England fans is that none of Root, Carberry or Panesar are part of the old guard; the people that we could more easily forgive for such transgressions. Swann has admitted that England will probably rue these missed chances, though we all hope he is wrong.
There is a lot of bad taste surrounding this Test series – not that some of it hasn’t been enjoyable, but still. The Aussies have exquisitely demonstrated their sour grapes by continually laying into Stuart Broad during the build-up, most recently labelling him the “27-year-old medium pace bowler” rather than using his name in the newspapers. Unfortunately for Australia, this has only spurred Broad to excel on the pitch, taking eight wickets in Brisbane and another two on Thursday, including that of David Warner. Nobody minds a pantomime villain (especially if he is playing the role really well), but wanton attacks on the otherwise innocent Monty Panesar – seemingly out of nowhere – are definitely unwarranted. We had expected the Australian cricket affiliation to have learned from David Nixon’s mistake of mimicking an Indian accent over the tannoy when announcing the arrival of Panesar to the crease during England’s warm-up match in Alice Springs on Saturday. Apparently not. Prior to the match Cricket Australia were prompted to quickly remove a post from its Twitter feed that had cause a stir – Piers Morgan being among the critics. The tweet included a picture of four men dressed as Teletubbies wearing turbans with the caption: “Will the real Monty Panesar please stand up?” CA have since issued an apology, and we hope the Australians will start acting more gracefully throughout the rest of the series. It is getting to the point where, regardless of whether Australia could win the series, their unsporting antics will overshadow all else.
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