Australia may be favourites, but England represent the value call in Adelaide's day-night Ashes Test says Dave Tickner.
It’s been a bad week for England. The players were unable to maintain their levels past the halfway point of the first Test at the Gabba, while the management have been given the absolute runaround by Australia, Australia’s media, and Ben Stokes.
In a frankly ludicrous PR win, an Australia side containing David Warner are now being portrayed as the good guys, while the England of Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali are the thugs and villains.
It’s pure piffle, of course, but Australia have sensed a weakness and pounced, with their sycophantic cheerleading media happy to help.
The ECB have not helped matters, though. First, their response to Australia’s attempts to humiliate Jonny Bairstow should have been to stand by their player and his team-mates. Instead, Andrew Strauss has imposed a curfew, perpetuating the idea that Bairstow and/or others have done something wrong since the start of the tour, handing the Aussies yet more initiative and material.
Away from that, England’s initial decision to keep Ben Stokes’ No Objection Certificate for New Zealand secret meant that when he caught them off guard by travelling sooner than anticipated a media circus erupted. Was he flying? Where was he flying? When would he get there?
One of the main reasons England should have categorically stated weeks ago that, regardless of any decision reached by the police, Ben Stokes’ breach of team discipline meant he would not be considered for any part of the Ashes tour.
Calling him up would have looked bad and created a distracting unwelcome circus. The ECB have now ensured they look bad and get the distracting unwelcome circus, but all without the benefit of actually having one of the world’s best all-rounders available.
So, as I say. A bad week.
But, and this is what really matters to us here, is it so bad a week that they should be 11/4 to win under floodlights in a Test that will probably be settled well inside four days?
Given the near certainty of a positive result, a case can also be made for Australia at 4/6. But we saw in Brisbane that when conditions aren’t typically Australian then there really is little between these two fundamentally flawed sides.
It’s rained in Adelaide this week, and further rain is forecast on Friday. The temperature is not expected to climb much above 20C during the five days of play. And, obviously, the game is being played under floodlights with a pink Kookaburra ball that offers English-style bowlers far more than its red counterpart.
I’m not saying England definitely get back into the series here. Australia are definitely favourites. But while odds-on Australia represented the value call in Brisbane, I’m not sure that’s the case in Adelaide given everything we know.
Yes, all the advantages the pink ball and floodlights bestow upon England’s bowlers they also bestow upon Mitchell Starc, but a low-scoring bowler-dominated shoot-out still gives this England side a better puncher’s chance than a pitch where 450 in the first innings is par.
Australia, it should be noted, have won both previous day-night Tests here at Adelaide, but the first of those – a low-scoring thriller against a New Zealand side boasting not dissimilar attributes to this England one – owed much to a ludicrous third-umpire reprieve for Nathan Lyon that allowed the Aussies to turn what should have been 118-9 into 224 and a crucial first-innings lead.
That match also featured no individual score higher than Aussie keeper Peter Nevill’s 66, and the 13/2 on offer for no century in this Test looks a touch on the big side.
There was only one made in far more batting-friendly conditions at the Gabba than can be expected here, and neither batting unit instils confidence in conditions where lateral movement is likely. Given the speed with which wickets may fall at certain times - England may well be able to keep Steve Smith below three-figures even if they remain incapable of actually dismissing him.
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Posted at 1740 GMT on 30/11/17.