Freddie Wilde and Ben Jones analyse day two at The Adelaide Oval.
On day one Peter Handscomb was notably fortunate to survive with England bowling a threatening full length and Handscomb playing 14 false shots. It took just three deliveries for Stuart Broad to make the breakthrough on day two, beating Handscomb’s inside edge with another full length ball that nipped back by 2.23°. Six of Handscomb’s seven dismissals against pace in his Test career have come against balls that have pitched within six metres of his stumps with bowlers taking advantage of his deep crease position.
Tim Paine’s innings of 57 off 102 balls was a gutsy, counter-attacking knock and helped wrest the initiative back from England after the wicket of Handscomb. Paine battled through a tough early phase, surviving a DRS review for lbw before taking two nasty blows on his gloves from Craig Overton – recalling memories of a career-defining finger break in 2010. He grew into the innings as it progressed and was clinical in attack, scoring 39 off 16 attacking shots – a run rate of 14.62 RPO which is well above the global average of 8.22 RPO.
ENGLAND TOO SHORT
In the first session England twice thought they had trapped batsmen lbw only for reviews to show the ball bouncing over the top of the stumps. They were two moments that perfectly encapsulated the major problem with England’s bowling performance and that is that, Broad aside, they bowled too short. So far in this match, the most effective length has been a full length (5-6 metres from the stumps) which has taken 3 for 65 from 132 balls, while an in-between length (6-8 m) has taken 0 for 87 from 326 balls. Of England’s pace bowlers only Broad appeared intent on hitting this range, bowling 48% of deliveries fuller than six metres while none of James Anderson (21%), Chris Woakes (25%) or Craig Overton (29%) managed more than 30% in that region.
Moeen Ali has had a really poor start to this series and has so far been unable to fulfil a role as an attacking or holding bowler. England’s bowling attack of right-arm fast medium bowlers and a lone off spinner lacks variety as it is and Moeen’s struggle has only perpetuated that concern. In Brisbane he bowled too full and spun the ball 1.81° less than Nathan Lyon and in in the first innings in Brisbane he was simply inaccurate. A side strain at the start of the tour and a finger injury in Brisbane has certainly hampered Moeen, who doesn’t look to be getting through his action with any substantial force and as such his deliveries are lacking the bite that can make him such a dangerous attacking option. Admittedly, bowling off spin in Australia is a difficult task – they average more there than in any other country – but Moeen has struggled to bowl a consistent length, let alone the right length. His inability to even hold up an end effectively is increasing the workload on England’s pacers which makes it harder for them to bowl with control.
Shaun Marsh’s fifth Test century was an obdurate innings defined by patience. England generally bowled fairly accurately to him, targeting his weaker areas. However, a lack of lateral movement – 0.49° of swing (Australian average 0.71°) and 0.76° of deviation (Australian average 0.91°) or high pace, left the pace bowlers unable to really unsettle him and he was totally assured against the struggling Moeen. Marsh left the ball very well outside off stump and picked off the loose balls effectively. It was a clinical dismantling of England’s one-dimensional bowling attack.
CUMMINS PROVIDES SUPPORT
Marsh was the focal point of the Australian innings, but as with Steve Smith at Brisbane, he was aided by the low-order support of Pat Cummins, who stayed lodged at the crease for 90 balls while Marsh moved towards his ton. Cummins’ batting ability is rooted in his superb defensive game which, although based on a fledgling career, sees him play 217 defensive shots before being dismissed playing one. This is the best record of anyone in the Australian team (the team average is 78 shots), illustrating that his lowly position at No.8 probably won’t be his eventual long-term home.
ENGLAND LOSE CONTROL
England started the day with vim and vigour, as Broad took Handscomb’s wicket early on, and they pushed hard to keep up the momentum. They were good for the first 50 overs of the day, managing 45% of their deliveries on a good line and length – in that time, Australia played 12% false shots and lost three wickets. However, as the day drew on England wearied in their toil, their proportion of good line and length deliveries dropping to 26% after the 130th over. It’s understandable that maintaining control for such a lengthy innings would be very difficult, but given England’s much publicised lack of pace and the lack of lateral movement on offer, control is their biggest weapon.
One of the few bright sparks for England in the field was the performance of debutant Overton. His figures of 3 for 105 are impressive rather than explosive, but he was a consistent threat. His line was tight, with 67% of deliveries on a good line making him the most accurate of England’s seamers in that regard and he swung the ball more than Anderson, despite his average length being 40cm shorter. It was noticeable however, that for a tall man of 1.96m his average pace of 129.61 kph was low. More specifically it drops as his length gets fuller: for bouncers it is 134.11 kph but for half volleys it is 126.67 kph.
AUSTRALIA SHOW THE WAY
In the 9.1 overs that were possible in England’s second innings before the rain arrived, Australia’s pace bowlers exposed the flaws in England’s attack and tactics with the new ball. Mitchell Starc bowled the fastest ball of the match with only his second delivery and although they had the luxury of a short session both Starc and Josh Hazlewood boast higher average speeds than England’s pace bowlers. Australia’s also bowled much fuller – their average length was 5.87 metres from the stumps compared to England’s 7.36 metres with the first new ball and 6.64 metres with the second new ball.