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George Bailey’s tough decision and other thoughts from the second Test

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Roar Guru
20th December, 2021

The Adelaide Test is done and dusted and this has to go into the record books as something unique.

I don’t think there’s ever been a Test player, let alone a Test captain, have to withdraw from a Test on the morning of the match because they might be infected with a virus after a handshake.

Throw in the triumphant return to the captaincy of Steve Smith, albeit for one match only and this has been a different game, even before a ball was bowled.

Here are a few thoughts on the match.

George Bailey made what I consider to be a “captains call”, when he announced some weeks ago that Marcus Harris would be opening the batting, at least in the first two Tests. He now has to publicly admit he was wrong by bringing in Usman Khawaja as a replacement for Harris.

Australia made sizeable first innings totals in Brisbane and Adelaide and there are two Aussie batsmen who stand out, for all the wrong reasons.

Cameron Green gets a pass on his batting, thanks to his strong performances with the ball, but Harris, with two first innings scores of 3, does not have anything to fall back on. Sure he made a few in the second innings of both matches but as we know, first innings runs are what count at this level and he’s underperformed.

In fairness, he got out in this Test to two magnificent catches, but there’s no way he should have played the shot he did in the first innings, not with a field set specifically for shots behind square leg and the other catch was because he had a nibble at one outside the off-stump – again.

Marcus Harris of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed by Ollie Robinson of England during day two of the First Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at The Gabba on December 09, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

I’d also argue his lack of confidence cost Dave Warner his wicket in the second innings, thanks to a very poor decision over a non-existent run.

It should not matter that Harris is a Victorian or that this is an Ashes Boxing Day Test. For many, Harris was a walking question mark before the series started and one more game is not going to change the fact that he’s been given plenty of chances and has not lived up to expectations.

This Test match was not lopsided – it doesn’t matter what the scorebook says, I’ll bet if you asked anyone in the Australian team what they thought of this match, they’d say it was a tough encounter.

On day 1, Australia was made to fight extremely hard for its runs, which only highlights the quality of the innings from Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. Ditto for a lot of day 2 and the early part of day 3, with Dawid Malan and Joe Root batting with a lot of commitment and purpose.

Obviously the wheels fell of the England first innings, allowing Australia to take a sizeable lead, but the bowling on the fourth morning was top drawer, certainly for the first hour and only another fine knock from Travis Head, completely took the game away from Root’s men.

That it took until the fifth day and 113 overs for Australia to actually win, shows England genuinely kept at it, but were simply outplayed in a few key sessions.


Why is everyone blaming the English players?
This is the best squad England could muster, led by the man who is, by some distance, England’s best player. That they are not winning Test matches is not down to their lack of desire, as the English media seems to think.

Test cricket is very much a physical and mental contest. It’s often referred to as a stoush, a fight and other boxing terms. And just like in boxing, sometimes one of the two fighters in the contest is outmatched.

This best English squad has hardly been helped by injury. What a difference a fully fit Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, etc could have made.

The real culprit has to be the coach and sole selector Chris Silverwood. He and Joe Root cultivated the cunning plan England have used for the past few years. Root has fulfilled his part by making so many runs, but Silverwood has failed miserably with his selections and inability to address clear issues with some of his batsmen.

Jos Buttler is not a Test keeper – and that’s probably not his fault.

Matt Prior did a terrific analysis of Buttler’s keeping technique for British television and pointed out two fatal flaws.


The first is his footwork where, at the point of release of the ball, all his weight is on the left foot. That makes it easy for him to go to his left, but if he needs to go to the right quickly, he can’t because he’s wrong footed and can only throw his glove at the ball and hope it sticks.

His other issue is that sometimes he uses an English technique and other times, an Australian technique. The problem is, he needs to actually think about which to use, rather than doing what comes instinctively.

That a 31 year old keeper has been able to get away with this for 54 Tests is a concern. This is not a new issue and clearly should have been addressed years ago.

His poor technique has cost his team wickets and runs, but more importantly confidence. Keepers taking the chances that come their way, really lift a team and this is one side that badly needs that.

Is enforcing the follow-on a 20th century fad?
I don’t think it even registered with Steve Smith to enforce the follow on. Kerry O’Keefe offered the thought that he might have if the innings had finished 14 overs earlier, but I doubt that was the case.

In days gone by, sides might have asked the bowlers how they felt and if they were good to go, then maybe the follow on could have been enforced, but Test cricket these days seems to be all about playing the opposition out of the game.

In the case of this match, Steve Smith would also be mindful that this is only the Second Test and the more overs he could get into the England bowlers, the more that would pay dividends in the upcoming matches.


Throw in a desire not to be batting last on a pitch that had plenty of turn and bounce and it’s no wonder Smith made the call to bat again.

Pat Cummins and Steve Smith of Australia walk out to field during day four of the 1st Domain Test between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on November 24, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

How well did the Australian attack go?
It’s not uncommon for any attack to lose one bowler through injury, etc, but to lose two of the best Test bowlers in world cricket, including one on the morning of the match, is seriously tough.

To then replace these guys with a two Test veteran and a debutant is normally asking for trouble, yet the entire attack seemed to work almost as well, as if Hazlewood and Cummins were still there.

What was most impressive was how well Starc and Lyon stepped up, especially in the first England innings. I suspect more than a few people were concerned, given their indifferent seasons last summer, but both really lifted, which made things that much easier for Neser andamp; Richardson.

Cameron Green would be happy with red ink – prior to his second innings, Cameron Green had only faced six deliveries from the 250 overs England had bowled in the first innings of the opening two Tests.

He should take confidence from the 43 deliveries he faced, which will hopefully lead to more runs in the remaining three Tests.


One over on day 5 highlighted that Test cricketers are on par with pub players
In Nathan Lyon’s 20th over, Steve Smith seemed to take forever to review the LBW decision against Ben Stokes. This was arguably a “howler” given it was projected to hit middle and leg.

A few deliveries later, Smith was asking for a review of a caught behind decision, almost before the umpire had finished saying “not out”. There was clear daylight between bat and ball, which suggests Smith made an absolute howler, just like any park cricketer, who are often convinced they were given a brumby decision.

Kudos to Damien Hough – this was another terrific Test pitch. There was plenty of sideways movement for bowlers who put the ball in the right places, while batsmen could make runs, if they were prepared to work hard. Hopefully we get another competitive wicket at the MCG.

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