Australia set to ring in the bowling changes (credit: Prescott)
After a drawn first Test match at Gabba in Brisbane, Australia will play England in the second Ashes Test match at Adelaide from Friday.
The high-scoring draw at Brisbane means that both sides will need to re-strategise for the second Test match but more questions will be asked of Australia than the tourists. They struggled to get the better of the English batsmen and conceded more than 500 runs in 150 overs for the loss of just one wicket. The selectors have immediately included Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris in the squad and one gets the sense that at least one of Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson will be replaced.
What is interesting is that both the sides now go into the Adelaide game at 5/2 (BetFred) to win the game, while the most favourite option is another draw (6/5 at Ladbrokes). This is the first time since the start of the tour that England will go in at level pegging with the home team.
Much of the resurrection needs to be credited to the manner in which the top three batsmen batted for England. Alastair Cook’s monstrous unbeaten double-century puts him at 5/1 (SkyBet) to top-score for England, while Andrew Strauss is still the favourite – 4/1 (Ladbrokes). Kevin Pietersen (9/2 at Totesport) looked to have overcome his demons in the first innings but a rush of blood cut his innings short. It will be interesting to see how the side goes about their batting after their chalk and cheese performance – a collapse in the first innings and the 500/1 in the second.
Australia’s woes are related to their bowling but it must be said that their first innings performance with the bat did not live up to the expectations. After a decent first-wicket partnership, the likes of Ricky Ponting (7/2 at Blue Square), Michael Clarke (11/2 at Bet365) and Marcus North (10/1 at Boylesports) struggled to lay bat to ball and were dismissed rather cheaply.
While Ponting got a good chance to dispel the cobwebs in the second innings and did it with great panache, Clarke and North would be worried. With Usman Khwaja (8/1 at BetFred) knocking on the doors, the pressure will be on them to get a big one in the second Test match if they get selected.
Much like Brisbane, Adelaide has been rather kind to Australia and out of the last 15 Test matches played here, they have won 11. Three of the remaining four have ended in a draw while the only Test match they lost was to India in 2007-08. However, it will need a much more penetrative bowling on a better track for them to be able to scalp 20 wickets in order to win the game. Difficult to pick favourites but England look slightly ahead.