So day 2 in Adelaide has finished and Australia are in complete control of the match and the series. After racking up 570/9 declared, Mitchell Johnson pinned back Cook’s off stump to leave England in tatters.
Of course England have underperformed before, most recently on tours to the UAE and New Zealand, there is however a different feeling this time – is this more than just a blip? The major difference in this game has been the failure of England’s bowling attack. Over the last 3 years we have become accustomed to watching the batsmen squander positions which the bowlers have worked so hard for, particularly in the UAE England’s batting was encapsulated by Ian Bell’s sudden inability to play anything that Ajmal sent down.
The four frontline bowlers who have lined up for England in this test have the highest combined test wickets of any bowling attack ever to play for England (990). Sadly last night, it looked like all those games have taken their toll. Despite an admirable performance in the first hour from all four frontline bowlers, and the missed chances didn’t help, England failed to make a breakthrough. Graeme Swann’s struggles will be a particular worry to England; he was instrumental in the home Ashes victory and is the key to controlling the opposition’s run rate. To see Swann bowling around the wicket with Clarke, unbeaten on a hundred, padding him away with something approaching disdain was truly depressing – once England’s chief merrymaker in the field, now he looked petulant and clueless. Haddin also tucked into England’s best spinner in a generation by sweeping him for a couple of sixes and worse was to come as Number 10. Ryan Harris joined in the fun with successive maximums. Competition for Swann’s place on this tour only comes in the shape of Monty Panesar, who while out bowling Swann yesterday, does not appear ready to lead the attack as a sole spinner.
Both Stuart Broad and James Anderson struggled for consistency yesterday and also lacked the skill to get the ball to reverse. Anderson was, of course, economical but he failed to provide any penetration and looked toothless against Australia’s tailenders. It is worth noting that for a vast majority of his overs his speed was down below 80mph and while he has great control he needs to find that extra 5mph again to trouble the very best. Broad did offer a little more pace but he continues to be something of an enigma, devastating when on form but chronically frustrating when off colour. Ben Stokes also came in for some severe treatment at the hands of both Haddin and Clarke, but I thought in the main he acquitted himself to test cricket quite well and I saw nothing here to discourage me from predicting he may well be England’s answer to finding a five man attack.
All this means it is time for England’s batsmen to return the favour. For the last three years the bowling attack has been digging them out of uncomfortable situations. England need their new look line up to stand up and be counted – I’m foreseeing a big hundred for Carberry or Root. Fingers Crossed!