Adelaide hosts the second Ashes Test this week, with England trailing 1-0 after an emphatic 10 wicket defeat in Brisbane. It is the first ever day/night Ashes Test.
Joe Root’s side were in the ascendancy during points in the respective first innings – and even for part of England’s second knock – but failure to hammer home any advantage allowed to Australians to batter their way to victory.
The Gabba surface was far from its traditional pacey, bouncy self. That did not stop England succumbing to the short ball, though, and only exaggerated the influence of the far-too-chatty, but immensely effective, Nathan Lyon. Adelaide would usually be expected to give a little more assistance than Brisbane for the spinner.
Sandwiching the Gabba Test and the trip to the WACA – where Australia seldom do anything other than win – England have to, at the very least, avoid defeat at the Oval to stand any chance of retaining the urn. The tourists are currently at 7/2 to do just that.
Social media was swept into a frenzy when images emerged of Ben Stokes at Heathrow on Monday, but the all-rounder has flown to New Zealand to play for Canterbury and meet family. The chances of him playing any part in this series are still uncertain, though there are murmurs that he could return for the Third Test in Perth.
England will be buoyed by his arrival – if it ever happens - but even Stokes will struggle to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
England’s chances in Adelaide depend on batsmen who get in making it count. James Vince, Joe Root, Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, and Dawid Malan all made significant scores in the First Test, but none went on to three figures.
Some form of support from James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s supporting cast will be equally significant. Chris Woakes was far short of his own high standards, Jake Ball is still struggling in the international arena, and niggling injuries limited the effectiveness of Moeen Ali. Anderson is at 11/2 to be top bowler in the match, but that may be of little relevance if the others cannot at least offer control.
Injury concerns have been cleared by Anderson himself, and Broad seems to have come through the match unscathed. Back-to-back tests will be a worry for England, though, who must be wary of over-bowling their two aces.
Bowling fitness will be on the mind of the Australians, too. Darren Lehmann will have been delighted with the performances of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon, but it will be intriguing to see how Cummins – and Mitchell Starc – cope with two tests in succession. Lyon at 3/1 to take five wickets in either innings is the pick of the bets on the hosts’ bowlers.
It might be handy for England to find a way to remove the world’s number one ranked batsman. That is, of course, easier said than done. Steve Smith was largely untroubled during his superb century, and is at 15/4 to be the top batsman in the match again.
Despite his unorthodox technique, Smith’s amazing eye makes him an immensely frustrating player to bowl at. England were criticised for their plans against him, but I think slowing his scoring is their best chance of getting a false stroke from the Australian skipper.
To compete in this series, England’s own senior players must deliver. Root’s conversion rate has evolved from irritant to major problem, and Alastair Cook must set a platform at the top of the innings. Without that, too much pressure lies with a bowling attack that looked worryingly thin at the Gabba. Root is 17/20 to score over 35.5 runs in the first innings, which I see as a good price given his consistency.
Drop-in pitches can be lifeless, which might actually give England a better chance if it nullifies the hostility of Australian quicks. The tourists still need to find a way of taking 20 wickets themselves, however. A decisive element of this Test will be how each side bowls under lights, with lateral movement at twilight the best opportunity to take wickets.
Even with supposed momentum, the prices on Australia to win are too short to be of any value. I think this is England’s best chance of avoiding defeat all series, and fear for another whitewash if it’s 2-0 heading to Perth. Relying on Cook and Root coming good with a dose of Anderson or Broad magic, I think a double chance on England to win or a draw at 13/10 is the pick of the match bets.
TIP: England to win OR draw @ 13/10
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*