A greenish looking fresh Day 1 pitch. Pink ball. Overcast conditions with occasional rain and a lot of moisture in the air.
If I was a new ball bowler, I would have been licking my lips.
Well, I am sure James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have 899 Test scalps between them, too thought on the same lines when Joe Root won the toss and decided to field in the inaugural day-night Ashes Test in Adelaide on Saturday afternoon.
Traditionally in Adelaide, spinners come into play in the fourth innings. Thus, it is always being considered as a ‘bat first’ wicket. From that point of view, Root’s decision was a bit of a gamble. But, considering the quality and experience of the England seam attack, it was a risk worth taking.
Experts like Graeme Swann believed, bowling first was England’s best chance of winning the Test match. Bowling with the pink Kookaburra on a seaming condition would have allowed them to explore the vulnerability in the Aussie batting and put them under some serious pressure.
However, unfortunately for the visitors, both Anderson and Broad had a poor day at the office. Especially with the new ball, their efforts were shambolic. In fact, here I can afford to be a little harsher and say, the English bowlers completely wasted the new ball.
In the opening session, which was curtailed to 13.5 overs due to the patchy rain, three bowlers — Anderson, Broad and Chris Woakes — got the chance to bowl and none of them posted any sort of threat to David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
The bowlers repeatedly dropped the ball too short and time and again, the Aussie openers were able to leave the ball alone, comfortably. Out of the 83 deliveries in the first session, only one would have hit the stumps, that too marginally. This sums up England’s untidy effort with the new ball.
An analysis by The Telegraph shows, only 23 percent of the balls in those 13.5 overs were pitched in the full length.
Also, as you expect on an overcast day, there was some seam movement and swing early in the day, but as the England bowlers were bowling short, they couldn’t take the advantage of it. Their defensive line of attack allowed Bancroft and Warner to play no shot 36 percent of the time, well above the global average of 22 percent.
Someone like Jason Gillespie feels initially the lengths of English bowlers were at least “two foot short”.
“The lengths were wrong,” Gillespie told cricket.com.au. “They were as much as two foot too short early on. After the rain delay [at the start of the second session] they started to get their lengths right and I thought they were better as they went on. When they didn’t get it right, they got punished.”
In hindsight, I can’t find a logic behind giving Broad just a three-over opening spell. The pink ball tends to soften sooner than the regular red ball and once it loses the shine, it does not do any trick for the bowlers. So, as captain Root should have provided the maximum opportunities to his two experienced pros – Anderson and Broad – when the ball was new. But, he replaced Broad with Woakes early in the day – a decision, which raised quite a few eyebrows.
Also, in the first session, it seemed England were more worried about not conceding runs than attack the Aussie batting with whatever they have. Strange!
Thankfully for England rain curtailed the session and probably the damage. A longer break allowed them a chance to regroup and reformulate the plans and things did improve later in the evening, under lights.
In the post-tea session, all three seamers who bowled in the first session — Broad, Anderson and Woakes — did push their a little higher to make things more awkward for the Australian batting. The session saw England taking two wickets for 105, where two more Aussie batsmen fell in the final session.
Still, at the end of the day, Root must have been disappointed to let Australia off the hook with just four wickets on a bowling friendly day. And the major reason behind this disappointment was due to England’s lack of success in the first session of the Test match.