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Five talking points from Australia vs England, second Ashes Test

Daniel Jeffrey Editor

By Daniel Jeffrey, Daniel Jeffrey is a Roar Editor

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    Never in doubt, right?

    It had every Australian cricket fan fearing the worst after a thrilling Day 4, but in the end, the second Ashes Test was comfortably won by the hosts, who cut through England’s batting order with ease on Day 5.

    There was plenty of controversy, great bowling and puzzling captaincy throughout the Test – as well as a superb century from one of the most maligned batsmen in Australia – so there isn’t exactly a shortage of talking points from this match.

    1. Steve Smith’s follow-on non-decision

    Okay, let’s get this one out of the way early. Smith’s decision to not enforce the follow-on was logically sound. At the time, it was probably the correct one; his attack had just bowled the best part of 80 overs and had been blunted by a pair of tail-enders, and Australia only needed to bat for a day to use the new ball under lights.

    Of course, with the perfect vision of hindsight, we can easily say Smith’s decision was a shocker, so much so it almost cost Australia the game.

    But everyone would be a perfect captain if they could make their decisions with hindsight’s aid. Smith didn’t deserve to be subject to as much criticism as he was after Day 3, and bowling coach David Saker certainly didn’t help things when he questioned Smith’s choice, essentially, as Jason Gillespie noted, throwing his skipper under the bus.

    However, there is one part of the decision which was troubling: Smith didn’t discuss the matter with his bowlers.

    Mitchell Starc said as much at the end of Day 3, and it’s a puzzling revelation; why wouldn’t Smith consult his attack before deciding whether they were capable of taking another ten wickets? Surely he wasn’t able to make the most informed decision possible without talking to Starc and the rest of his bowlers.

    The logic behind batting again may have been sound, but the process wasn’t. The bowlers are the guys who have to get the wickets again, and they’re the ones who benefit from having an extra innings’ rest. While they obviously aren’t the ones who should make the decision, they at least should have been consulted.

    Smith will be thankful his call didn’t come back to bite him – although Joe Root has enjoyed no such luck after opting to field first.

    Steve Smith reacts sad Ashes 2nd Test.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    2. On matters of DRS and umpiring

    Speaking of things Smith will be relieved about, the skipper was awfully lucky his wasteful use of the DRS late on Day 4 didn’t cost him and his team.

    The first ill-fated review always looked speculative, but it was the one four balls later off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood which was worse. Given the bounce we had already seen in the pitch, and the fact Hazlewood always extracts as much rise as possible from any deck he bowls on, reviewing a ball which hit Dawid Malan above the knee-roll was always going to be thrown in the ‘hopelessly optimistic’ pile.

    Maybe Hazlewood made the most convincing case for a review ever heard on a cricket pitch. Maybe Smith thought he owed his big quick one after opting against sending a plumb LBW against Alastair Cook upstairs. Who knows.

    What we do know is that, with reviews no longer resetting after 80 overs, Smith needs to be a hell of a lot more accurate with his referrals.

    In Smith’s defence, he wasn’t helped by the umpires. There were seven decisions which were overturned on review in Adelaide, plus the aforementioned Cook LBW. Smith had few reasons to trust the accuracy of the decisions made by either umpire, so his profligacy with his referrals is understandable – to a degree.

    Regardless, he needs to improve that part of his game.

    3. All hail the GOAT

    Saying ‘Niiiiiice, Garry’ should be a thing of the past. Nathan Lyon’s bowling is now way better than that.

    Coming into this series, all the focus was on Australia’s battery of pace bowlers, but Lyon has been the most consistent member of the hosts’ attack.

    Lyon has no doubt been aided by the volume of left-handers in England’s line-up, but that should take nothing away from the class of his performances. He can, after all, only bowl to the batsman in front of him.

    Lyon’s stranglehold over Moeen Ali – one of England’s better players of spin – has been critical in the first two matches. Ali has the ability to take a game away from the opposition, an ability he has been denied by Australia’s frontline spinner.

    Not only has Lyon nullified one of England’s most dangerous middle-order batsmen and taken 11 wickets over the two Tests, but he’s also been a miserly option for Steve Smith to turn to. His economy of 2.3 is the best among Australia’s bowlers, and has allowed the likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to bowl more aggressively, to go searching for wickets without needing to worry too much about conceding many runs.

    Mitchell Starc might have more scalps this series, but there’s no doubt Lyon has been the better bowler. Few would have predicted the GOAT was the bowler most likely to take home player-of-the-series honours, but if he can keep up his current form, that’s exactly what will happen.

    Nathan Lyon tall

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    4. Problems? Australia have a few

    Unsurprisingly for a team trailing 2-0, England have more selection headaches than their opponents. James Vince has been a walking wicket since the first innings in Brisbane, Moeen Ali hasn’t been good enough with bat or ball, the bowling attack took until the second innings in Adelaide to click, the side urgently needs Ben Stokes to be cleared so he can play in Perth, Alastair Cook hasn’t scored an Ashes century since 2011, Joe R–

    I’ll stop.

    Australia aren’t exactly devoid of issues themselves, though. Chief among them is the form and technique of Peter Handscomb. Ronan O’Connell wrote on this earlier today, but it bears repeating.

    Handscomb is averaging under 21 this series and is coming off a sub-par start to the Sheffield Shield. More importantly, he looked all at sea in Adelaide, his trust in his unorthodox technique completely shot.

    Given how easily England’s pacemen were able to target Handscomb, there’s a compelling case to drop the Victorian and bring in his state teammate Glenn Maxwell for Perth. Maxwell is fresh off two impressive scores, the first a monster double-century, the second a well-made 96 at the MCG.

    Handscomb is the only batsman who has failed to pass fifty for Australia, and hence the only one in any real danger of being dropped, but there will no doubt be a few concerns over the form of Australia’s opening pair of David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. Both have failed with the willow this series, the obvious exception coming at the Gabba during Australia’s chase.

    With Usman Khawaja also only scoring the one fifty so far this series, Australia will want to get more out of their top order in the coming Tests.

    Australian batsmen David Warner and Cameron Bancroft (left) walk from the field after Australia won on Day 5 of the First Test match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Monday, November 27, 2017.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    5. The Ashes are as good as over

    Adelaide always loomed as England’s best chance to grab a victory this summer. Thanks to some insipid bowling and flaky batting in the first half of this Test, that has now well and truly passed them by.

    It’s great news for Australia, but it’s not ideal for those wanting a competitive series; it’s hard to see England getting a result after losing in Adelaide.

    The tourists will struggle on the bouncy Perth deck – although the WACA pitch has often had more hype than bounce in recent years – and a loss there will hand the Ashes back to Australia. Their greatest hope for a series result would be emulating New Zealand’s efforts from a couple of years ago and snaring a draw in Perth, then hoping for a pair of wins in Melbourne and Sydney.

    It’s unlikely though. Australia have, ultimately, won these two Tests comfortably despite an underperforming top order (who would have thought it would be Shaun Marsh leading the hosts to victory with the willow?) and a new ball pair who haven’t bowled at their best for any stretch of time – although they’ve been close at times.

    Some might say it’s way too early to declare the series over, but it’s almost a stone-cold certainty that the Ashes are heading back to Australia.

    Daniel Jeffrey
    Daniel Jeffrey

    Daniel is Editor of The Roar. You can catch him on Twitter @_d_jeffrey.

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    The Crowd Says (84)

    • Roar Guru

      December 6th 2017 @ 5:14pm
      Scott Pryde said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

      Good stuff Jeffers,

      The umpiring is a major concern for mine. Chris Gaffaney is on field again in Perth, but his confidence looked absolutely fried. Same with Dar, who will be in the third umpires box. Not as hard to bugger things up there, but Gaffaney needs to get his confidence in making decisions back in a hurry. It’s little wonder Smith didn’t trust them to get it right last night. Glad it didn’t cost us.

      Handscomb might be dropped. Not for Perth – no point bringing in Maxwell on that track – but for Melbourne and Sydney. Handscomb needs big runs in Perth, but I can’t see it happening. The track might suit his technique a bit more, but pressure on.

      • Editor

        December 6th 2017 @ 5:37pm
        Daniel Jeffrey said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

        The selectors could opt for an all-rounder on Perth – pretty flat deck this year from all accounts, although that could always change for the Test.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 9:21pm
          Marshall said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

          Is that Mitchell Marsh’s music I hear playing?

          Here he comes….

          • December 6th 2017 @ 11:11pm
            Matth said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

            Yep he has been added to the squad. After the way his brother has gone, I’m saying nothing.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 8:07pm
        fp11 said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

        I just can’t believe how easily Smith got rattled by Anderson and Broad. This from another Australian news website is spot on IMO:

        ” Smith was bumbling at DRS, fumbling in the field, anxious and petulant, in short a right prat and an emerging liability in Australia’s Ashes cause.”

        • December 6th 2017 @ 10:30pm
          Jameswm said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

          ??? Poor guy averaging 60 and captain of the team that regains the Ashes.

          He bit back. It had nothing to do with how he got out or the poor DRS reviews.

          You want to see poor captaincy? Speak to Mr Root.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:18pm
          JoM said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

          You would have to wonder what they were saying to him though. He has been around long enough now to cope with it. Must have been pretty ordinary.

        • December 7th 2017 @ 12:46am
          Don Freo said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:46am | ! Report

          Most viewers would say the opposite. It was a commanding performance from Smith and the English just folded.

          Where was the talk as the wickets crumbled? Joe just melted.

          Perhaps you were watching the replay and reading the reports from another game, fp11. You won’t convince anyone here. We were watching.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 9:47pm
        Horrie said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

        The dreaded “Mere Marsh” is returning for the Perth Test. This will give the Poms a chance. The guy is arguably the worst Oz cricketer to have played 20 tests. His bowling is innocuous and his batting execrable. He has the worst record as a number 6 in the history of Test cricket (20+ Tests).

        I have no respect for the NSP. As a selector, Mark Waugh makes a great punter on the dishlickers.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 10:24pm
          Matting wicket said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

          Mark Waugh is NOT a Test selector, will people please get this straight!

          • December 7th 2017 @ 12:48am
            Don Freo said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:48am | ! Report

            His punting tends to be on pacers. Wrong on every count, Horrie.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:10pm
          Perry Bridge said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

          There are those people they find every excuse to get in, and back in, and back in again,

          and there are those who seem to have their papers marked no matter what they serve up.

          Perhaps that is the job of the selectors??

          I can’t help but feel there’s a sameness to the attack. Perhaps this England batting line up is so vulnerable that it won’t matter. And on flat tracks Mitch Marsh can probably look like a capable batter – such as the WACA as has been this year and the MCG has been levelling out as matches go on to something flatter than Flinders St.

          • December 7th 2017 @ 12:49am
            Don Freo said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:49am | ! Report

            So, Perry, if Mitch gets runs, it’s a flat pitch but all other candidates are scoring on minefields??

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:19pm
          JoM said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

          Mark Waugh selects the T20 team. Why don’t you look at Lehmann, Hohns and Chappell.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 6th 2017 @ 5:19pm
      Matthew Pearce said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

      I’m not too concerned with our batting yet – apart from Handscomb, obviously. The conditions so far have been, at best, not quite conducive for batting.

      What it has been is a good test of their mental fortitude. We’ve generally shown the patience and application that we need to win those tough foreign test matches. Could be a turning point in our away fortunes if this lesson sticks.

      Last innings was some pretty bad batting but also ridiculously difficult conditions to bat in and brilliant bowling, sometimes you get that horror innings, what’s important is that you make it up over the rest of the match.

      Nicely placed to regain the urn here.

      • Editor

        December 6th 2017 @ 5:38pm
        Daniel Jeffrey said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

        Yes, excellent to see plenty of grit shown by the batting line-up, particularly from Shaun Marsh.

    • Roar Guru

      December 6th 2017 @ 5:19pm
      Rellum said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

      “Okay, let’s get this one out of the way early. Smith’s decision to not enforce the follow-on was logically sound. At the time, it was probably the correct one”

      No it wasn’t and it wasn’t at the time. It was a poor decision that set us back in the Test. Not as bad as Roots to bowl first but bad none the less.

      It doesn’t excuse the poor batting that followed of course.

      • Editor

        December 6th 2017 @ 5:27pm
        Daniel Jeffrey said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

        It is remarkably easy to say that in hindsight, though. Would it have been better to roll England on Day 3? Of course.

        But had Australia batted competently for three sessions, then sent England in under lights last night and taken a stack of wickets, no-one would have a problem with it – or at least not half as much as what they do now. There’s plenty of logic behind trying to pull off that plan.

        Had England batted well after being sent in and set Australia a tricky target, plenty would have said it was the wrong decision. And if one of the bowlers had broken down after Smith enforced the follow-on, he would have been crucified for the decision.

        • Roar Guru

          December 6th 2017 @ 5:47pm
          Paul D said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

          Agreed. Right decision, poor approach from the batsmen. They were far too casual.

          Reminded me of our lazy hack and slash chase against India at the Gabba a few years ago in the 4th innings.

        • Roar Guru

          December 6th 2017 @ 5:48pm
          Rellum said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

          It was actually remarkable easy to say at the time. You can ask Scotty Pryde who had to put up with my frustration at them batting again.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 10:55pm
            Alan said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

            Yeah, but simply repeating the same rant doesn’t make it right or perhaps righter because you’ve said it morer…

            The actuality was our bowlers had struggled to finish their tail off. Had Smith enforced the follow on and the bowlers had not had much impact most of Australia would be calling for his head.

            Anderson pulled an excellent spell out of his bum (based on all evidence this tour until that spell) which has given you et al all the ammo you need.

            Let it go we won.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 6:14pm
          Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | December 6th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

          Yes but Smith handed a brand new cherry to Anderson and Broad at night when the conditions were most conducive to swing and seam. There is no way of avoiding saying this – he let England back in the game and he didn’t need to. The Poms would have been stoked to be given the opportunity and Anderson in particular made the most of it. You could understand Smith not wanting to enforce the follow on if you were asking your fast bowlers to back up again in 40 degree heat if they had been bowling for 120 overs or so. But they had only bowled 76 overs and Lyon had bowled 24 of them. Its easy say in hindsight that all the Aussie batsmen had to do was get through 2 or 3 hours but the ball was hooping all over the place and really he didn’t need to do it. The Aussie bowlers bailed Smith out in the end with some good individual efforts the decision by Smith remains a poor one given the nature of the Adelaide wicket at night with a new ball.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 7:11pm
          Nudge said | December 6th 2017 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

          Spot on Daniel.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 6:00pm
        Christo the Daddyo said | December 6th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

        Disagree entirely. And the Australian bowling last night backs that view.They looked OK, not great. And that was fresh – imagine how they would have been if they’d had to saddle up again after having to work much harder than expected against the England tail…

        • Roar Guru

          December 6th 2017 @ 9:19pm
          Rellum said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

          You can disagree but the decision it let them off the hook and back in the game. The only reason not to enforce it was the work load argument.

          The Aus bowlers managed 7-8 overs a day for that Test. They had bowled about 18 overs each over that whole previous 3 sessions. They had just had a 40 min rest and only had to bowl for 30 odd more overs and the chance to kill off Eng for the Ashes. If professional bowlers can’t back up after that amount of work then the sports scientists have failed at their job.

          What is more concerning is this line of thinking is now affecting tactics in the game, or even worst, the sports scientists and dictating tactics based on workloads.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 10:37pm
            Nudge said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:37pm | ! Report

            Resting the bowlers certainty would have played a part in his decision, you wouldn’t want your best assets bowling 160 overs in a row. But tactically it was the right decision as well. England were chasing 355 to win, that’s a lot of runs in the 4th innings of a test on a late day 4, day 5 wicket. If Smith sent them back in and they made 355 (which would be easier on a late day 3 day 4 wicket) then Australia would have needed 140 to win on a late day 4 wicket day 5. They only made that on a wicket that was one day less worn. Then you add the incredible pressure of chasing that total in the 4th innings.
            As it stands Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc, and Lyon have no new back injuries, or any other injury, our bowlers have bowled a heck of a lot less than there’s this test, and we’ve won a test by 120 runs. Great stuff, move on.

            • Roar Guru

              December 7th 2017 @ 8:44am
              The Barry said | December 7th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

              Best comment I’ve read on this subject.

              The pro-follow inners are assuming Australia would have torn through England’s top order.

              Yet the evidence is that they were battling against the tail and couldnt rip through the top order 24 hours later.

              The risk of bowling 180+ overs straight far outweighed the opportunity for a bigger defeat.

              England did well with the ball, Australia batted terribly but England were never back in the game.

              As it stands Australia won by 120 runs anyway. What difference does it make if we’d have won by 8 wickets instead?

          • December 6th 2017 @ 11:02pm
            Alan said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

            You come across as somewhat prone to outbursts of hysteria Rellum and I suspect this clouds your judgement at times.

            • Roar Guru

              December 7th 2017 @ 12:16am
              Rellum said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:16am | ! Report

              If you say so. Nudge can make an argument on the issue, I disagree with him/her but I respect there ability to do so. No seeing much to respect from you mate.

          • December 7th 2017 @ 1:12am
            Bakkies said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:12am | ! Report

            It put England in the field for another day which was going to be their third in a row. England made the mistake of batting second in Adelaide, make sure you don’t put yourself in the situation where you could bat last. Their main bowler is 35 years old and ended up bowling 11 overs straight. Yes the ball was swinging in that night session however there were wickets in the shed to build a bigger lead than 350 had they batted sensibly. Only Marsh could say he got a good ball that got him out. Paine and Starc threw their wickets away trying to hit the ball in to the stand.

    • December 6th 2017 @ 5:21pm
      JimmyB said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

      Congratulations Australia, too good.
      Was hoping for an entertaining day’s play but it turned into a damp squib…oh it’s the hope that kills you.
      Congrats once again.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 7:10pm
        Nudge said | December 6th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

        Onya Jimmy, good stuff mate.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 9:29pm
          Internal Fixation said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

          Was a great game in the end because of the excitement of the end of Day 3 and Day 4.

          Good to see a bit of fight from England but without Stokes they don’t have any “punch” in the middle order.

          I’m most proud of Gary Lyon. Isn’t he only just the age now when Swann got started?

          • Roar Guru

            December 7th 2017 @ 3:01pm
            JamesH said | December 7th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

            Yeah he’s only 29. He could feasibly play for another 7 years and become our second highest test wicket taker.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 10:22pm
        Worlds Biggest said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

        Good on you Jimmy, your boys showed a lot of grit yesterday and were right in the game until Root got out.

        • December 7th 2017 @ 10:18am
          JimmyB said | December 7th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

          In the second over of the day. ?

    • December 6th 2017 @ 5:26pm
      klee gluckman said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

      Warner will be fine. I thought he was good in the first innings. He’s not playing badly.

      • Editor

        December 6th 2017 @ 5:31pm
        Daniel Jeffrey said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

        Yes, I’m not overly concerned about Warner, although I don’t think he looked too good in the first innings. He’s also only scored the two first-class fifties in five games this summer, which is well below his usual standards.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 9:11pm
          doogs said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

          I loved your article Daniel. Very well written. I’m not sure about your angle on Warner though. He has scored 26, 87 no, 47 and 14 to be averaging just under 60. I’ve not known an Australian player who is graded more harshly
          than Warner. It is like the unfortunate Australian self-entitled sports “lover” who feels he should just go out there and smash everything and score a truckload every innings and if he hasn’t he has failed. Has he not recently scored tons in the sub-continent where he showed patience and people were glowing in their praise of his batting. I know I go against the grain in not jumping on the bandwagon but I’m not concerned how people respond.

          Your points on the umpiring was spot on. It’s not a simple job. I certainly would not want it. I don’t like to criticise but the umpiring was sub-standard in this test. I don’t think it favoured anybody it was just ordinary all around. Rejecting appeals for lbws where the ball is crashing into the stumps and giving appeals for ones clipping the bails. Let’s hope they are better for the rest of the series.

          Apart from that I really enjoyed the game. Test cricket is terrific to watch again. I would have loved to see the Poms to put up more of a fight today and still have the Aussies winning, but the Australians were great today. Well done

          • December 7th 2017 @ 12:57am
            Don Freo said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:57am | ! Report

            I am fully with you, Doogs. Warner is a rock for this team. Very few more reliable than him.

            I’m happy with his 60ish average and he has a big one or two in him before the series ends.

            • December 7th 2017 @ 1:19am
              doogs said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:19am | ! Report

              Thanks Don. I think he is a rock too

        • December 6th 2017 @ 10:06pm
          Nick Potter said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

          Warner has been worked out a bit and they’ve bowled well to him. He’s a lot like Gilchrist, he wants bowlers to bowl short and wide to him early in his innings so he can cut through point and gully. A lot of bowlers oblige. But on Monday night with the ball swinging all over the place and pitched up he was working pretty hard with a technique not used to the situation. They wanted him to drive and he struggled not to.

          • December 7th 2017 @ 12:59am
            Don Freo said | December 7th 2017 @ 12:59am | ! Report

            The fact remains, their plans have failed because he keeps scoring runs. When it is not fluent, he grafts, but he rarely fails.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 6:02pm
        Christo the Daddyo said | December 6th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

        Not sure Bancroft would share that view. If you’re going to run out your partner you need to go on and get a big score to make up for it. He didn’t.

    • December 6th 2017 @ 5:27pm
      dave said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

      Most people would agree Steve Smith is the best test batsmen right now.
      After Smith’s great captains knock in the 1st test Joe Root had the perfect opportunity to win the 2nd off his own bat.

    , , ,