Has Steve Smith let England off the hook?

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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82 Have your say

    As David Warner and Cameron Bancroft ran off the field when England was dismissed for 227, Steve Smith obviously wasn’t going to enforce the follow on.

    Why not, for heaven’s sake?

    England’s morale was shattered, they were 215 runs in arrears, and sure weren’t looking forward to facing the far superior Australian pace attack at night in Adelaide, when the pink ball was likely to be lively.

    But that wasn’t the only crazy decision.

    England captain Joe Root handed Smith a big bonus when he sent Australia into bat last Saturday.

    Smith and his baggy greens said thanks very much and piled on 442 before declaring.

    Last night Smith returned the compliment by batting again, and Root said thanks very much with Australia 4-53, a lead of only 268 with six wickets in hand, and two days to play.

    Two crazy captaincy decisions in the one Test.

    Sure the Australians are in the better position of the two, but they could have been far better off by making England follow on.

    England was damn lucky to reach 227, they should have been out for less than 170.

    But thanks to Chris Woakes batting eight with 36 from 62, and top-scorer Craig Overton batting nine with an unbeaten 41 off 79, they very nearly avoided the follow on their own right.

    But the real story was Steve Smith not availing himself of the Adelaide night air, and the subsequent increased pink ball movement.

    The carnage Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood would have caused would effectively have ended England’s Ashes campaign right there.

    Perhaps Smith wasn’t impressed with the trio’s lacklustre bowling to Woakes and Overton to allow England to tally 227.

    That could be the only sane reason for not enforcing the follow on.

    Steve Smith Usman Khawaja

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    As a result, England’s attack thrived last night for the first time – they won’t match these figures for the rest of the campaign.

    Anderson 2-16 off 11 with seven maidens.

    Broad 0-14 off seven.

    Overton 0-8 off ten.

    And Woakes 2-12 off seven.

    They made the pink ball talk, with the four best Australian batsmen back in the shed – Bancroft (4), Khawaja (20), Warner (14), and the skipper for six, all four really struggling against an inspired England attack that couldn’t believe their luck they were handed a lifeline.

    That leaves Peter Handscomb and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, both three, to resume this afternoon.

    Then it will need two heroic first dig repeats from keeper Tim Paine and Pat Cummins to take Australia over 350 in front.

    Maybe, just maybe.

    If England get out of this unscathed, they can thank Steve Smith, who suffered a rare brain explosion.

    They can count on it not happening again.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (82)

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:58am
      Not so super said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

      Dravid and Laxman don’t play for England.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 7:06am
      Swannies said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      If Jimmy and Broady strike early today then England can win this. I back Cooky or Root to score a ton and lead England to a series levelling victory chasing around 300. That would reignite what would effectively be a dead series if Aussies go 2/0 up. No one wants to see another boring one-sided 5-0 white wash with England going through the motions in Melbourne and Sydney.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 7:14am
        Basil said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

        I’m quite happy to see 5-0.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 7:26am
          Chris Love said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

          Me too Basil.

          • December 5th 2017 @ 8:24am
            Oingo Boingo said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

            5-ZIP … Here we go here we go here we goooooo….
            Can’t see an issue with it .

          • December 5th 2017 @ 12:10pm
            Tanami Mehmet said | December 5th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            There’s no chance of a 5 – nil result. The WACA is the flattest pitch in the history of cricket and even this England team will survive long enough to see out stumps on day 5.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:13am
          Chui said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          Me too.

          Maybe ‘no-one’ could speak up about now.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Sign me up for a 5-0 whitewash

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Brett Wood said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        I’d luv to watch a 5-0 victory ?

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 11:46am
        The Barry said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        I’ll take 5-0…?

      • December 5th 2017 @ 3:25pm
        Bakkies said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Not sure why anyone would want a close series especially given that England hold the Ashes.

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 7:28am
      Ryan H said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Probably not regardless. It’s still very hard to see Eng actually winning; Australia should still be just fine.

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 9:00am
        Edward L'Orange said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Yes this seems a little bit of an overreaction. And why not give the Poms and credit and say they bowled well.


        “Perhaps Smith wasn’t impressed with the trio’s lack lustre bowling to Woakes and Overton to allow England to tally 227.
        That could be the only sane reason for not enforcing the follow on.”

        Or perhaps he wanted to give his bowlers a break, and had enough confidence in his team to bat up until evening today. Hindsight is excellent isn’t it.

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 9:15am
          Edward L'Orange said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Also, just for interest’s sake:

          The highest 4th innings score at the Adelaide oval is 445, by India in 1978.

          The highest 4th innings score by England is 370, in 1921.

          The average 4th innings total is 213.

          • December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am
            Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

            Yes – but those were the days before day/night test cricket in Adelaide. I think we need to get out of our heads the concept of traditional Adelaide test cricket being 5 day attritional cricket on hot sun baked summer days with huge scores on a benign batting strip. The day/night concept has thrown in a completely new dynamic. The way the ball was hooping around last night resembled a green top on an overcast day in England. Amazing.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 5th 2017 @ 10:17am
          Matthew Pearce said | December 5th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          Spot on there, we already lead by 270 runs, is our bowling suddenly so impotent that a pitch that left us at 4/50 won’t trouble England to 300+? Major overreactions here.

          • December 5th 2017 @ 3:34pm
            Jordan c said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

            Spot on.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 5th 2017 @ 7:28am
      El Loco said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Pretty sure we have Shaun Marsh up our sleeve too….and I’m eating some humble pie in acknowledging that.

      Not sure it was a brain explosion, the night wickets aren’t a given, even if we went ahead and made it look so. If England battled it out to none or one-fer we’d have a few nerves going into day 4.

      My gut feel has always been that if the opposition score more than 50% of your total then the follow on is questionable. But that’s built on decades of daytime tests so maybe the gut needs a recalibration. I’d still rather be in Australia’s position though.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:44am
        Bakkies said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        ‘Pretty sure we have Shaun Marsh up our sleeve too….and I’m eating some humble pie in acknowledging that.’

        along with Paine, Starc and Cummins.

        Stick England in the field for another day after Anderson bowling an 11 over spell. There has to be a reason why Overton only bowled one over as Broad wasted a lot of time with balls that weren’t going to players out.

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
      Chris Kettlewell said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Pretty sure come the afternoon batting that Australia will get at least another hundred or so runs, and in truth they probably already have enough to win the test, but if they can bat until sometime during the middle session with a 350+ lead, they’ll win pretty comfortably. But it does feel like it was the prime opportunity to enforce the follow on. Though Starc had already bowled 20 overs in that innings, I can imagine Smith thinking that if England batted a similar length in the second innings that’s effectively the equivalent of being in the field for a 150 over innings, which is pretty huge.

      But all that aside, the night-time bowling bonus had to be considered. Though as also pointed out, last night the conditions were a bit different to the previous two and the ball moved a lot more than it had for either team prior to that. In fact, for much of Anderson’s spell it was too much, you could pick which way it was swinging based on the line, the ball starting at leg stump was the outswinger, the ball starting well outside off was the inswinger. But when it’s swinging that much even just getting the odd ball dead-right that ball can be hard to play.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Oingo Boingo said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        20/20 hindsight by Mr Lord , I’m pretty sure Steve Smith wasn’t afforded such luxuries.
        Would we be having this conversation if the pitch had been as dead as a Kennedy , and the Poms were none for ninety odd.

        • Roar Guru

          December 5th 2017 @ 11:50am
          Chris Kettlewell said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

          True, as the commentators pointed out, there was a lot more swing around last night than either of the two previous night sessions. Probably due to it being warmer and that lifting the humidity also. Smith probably figured that if the conditions were similar to previous nights they could probably get through with a bit less damage than what did happen. As it was they lost 4 wickets. They’ve still got enough batting to go to be able to bat for a session and a half, add another 100-150 runs and get England in just as it’s heading towards dark on day 4.

          There was risk either way unfortunately. If Smith enforces the follow on and it doesn’t turn into an evening where the ball is hooping around corners, and England buckle down and survive without too much loss, then Australia could have been facing 150 overs plus in the field which is very hard work on their pace attack, and the longer they stay in the field the less effective they will likely be. In not enforcing he risked an evening like Australia faced last night.

          The fact is though, England have been by far the major beneficiaries of night bowling (rain causing Australia to lose day time batting and extend night time batting by an hour on day 1, rain then saves England from an hour of night time batting on day 2, then Australia faces the entire night time session on day 3), and yet are still this far behind in this test match. You can bet the only way England avoid having to survive through an entire night session on day 4 is to have already lost.

          Australia is well on top in this match still!

          • Roar Guru

            December 5th 2017 @ 11:57am
            Rellum said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            It rained most of the previous nights session so I don’t how you can decide it wasn’t swinging. So that leaves you with one night to make that judgement, all of which, if I recall correctly, apart from the last over was with an old ball.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 12:37pm
              DaveJ said | December 5th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

              Precisely, although you’d have to say the Aussie bowlers didnt look anywhere near as threatening in their short spell on Sunday night, apart from their speed.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:46am
        Bakkies said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        There is another test next week and Australia can’t afford injuries to bowlers with Coulter Nile, Pattinson and Behrendorf already out.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 1:25pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

          Yep, pretty sure that would have been on Smith’s mind too…
          Doesn’t seem to have occurred to Lord though. Who wants to tell him we’re not even halfway through the series?

          • December 5th 2017 @ 3:36pm
            Bakkies said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            All three of those injured quicks have the pace to trouble England particularly in Perth. As quality bowlers as Sayers, Siddle and Bird are they aren’t going to trouble England through express pace.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 8:26am
      TC123 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      England have gone from 0% chance of winning to maybe 10-20% because of Smiths decision. I’m not sure if that means Engkand are off the hook though. Makes for an interesting first session later today

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Spanners said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        I think England went from 0% chance of winning if they followed on to 0% chance if they didn’t. Batting will be infinitely easier today and expect Handscombe, Marsh, Starc and Cummings to pile on another 100+ runs. If anyone thinks this England team can score 400+ through 2x evening sessions, you are off your head….

        Here is a scenario, what if England were sent in and finished day 3 at say 0-50? Justified in part because our strike bowlers had already bowled 20 overs apiece. How do the public feel about the follow-on, if England then come out on day 4 and score another 300 runs? What if the Poms, with a 150 run lead, send Australia in for a sneaky 6 overs under lights? How does that decision sit if Australia finish 3-10?

        For mine, Smith made a great decision to bat and the next two days of play will prove him 100% correct.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:47am
          rock86 said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Completely agree with this comment

          • December 5th 2017 @ 3:22pm
            Nudge said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

            Absolutely spot on Spanners. Australia are currently 6 for 90 with a lead of 305. Say Australia end up making 150 they will lead by 365. If Smith enforced the follow on and England made 365 and Australia were 6 for 90 needing another 60 to win, can you imagine the pressure on the batsmen. At the moment I’m watching and not even nervous. The pressure on the batsmen right now is more than halved. Not to mention they would be batting on a wicket that’s a day and a half older. By batting again it virtually gave England no chance to win.

            • December 6th 2017 @ 7:31am
              TC123 said | December 6th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

              How about now?

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