Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong.
It’s a line from Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, but the words ring through regardless of the evil source.
In the Brisbane Test, Steve Smith worked his way to a magnificent innings, with all the patience and restraint in the world, and it served Australia perfectly, snatching a crucial first innings lead that turned out to be crucial.
On the first day of the second Test at Adelaide, not only Smith, but the entire top order took things slow. Including David Warner, the compulsive dasher. But the problem was that every Australian batsman grafted through their innings and got out after getting partially or fully set. None of them went ahead to get a big score.
That includes Smith. After restraining himself over after over the Australian captain blocked one from debutant Craig Overton and played on. All the hard work he had put in to eke out 40 from 90 deliveries was undone. The greatest batsman of modern cricket walked back and the score was 161 for 4. England had the advantage. Losing the first wicket to a mid-pitch misunderstanding did not help either.
The very strategy that had paid dividends for the hosts in the first Test kind of backfired in the second. Yes, Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh did stitch together a 38-run association, once again taking 19 overs over their combined effort. The Australians remained cautious, overly so, but they have recovered to 209 for 4, which does not look that unimpressive on the scoreboard.
Even as Australia steamrolled England 6-0 at Lang Park in the rugby league world cup, cricket did have the Old Country ending up in a far better position.
Yet, England will sleep well with the thought that they have put shackles around the batting as well as having done a good job of hacking away at the foundations. They are one wicket away from getting into the Australian lower order and there is no captain to hold one end up. Four down with Smith in is a completely different proposition from four down with Smith back in the pavilion. At 139 for 2, it had seemed that Root had committed the cardinal error, a-la-Hussain, in sending the opposition in. But with both half-centurion Usman Khawaja and skipper Smith removed in a rather quick succession after that, there is a reason for the English camp to be upbeat.
The approach of Australia perhaps cannot be faulted. And due credit should be given to all the English bowlers, from Anderson and Broad to Woakes and Moeen, as well as, obviously, Overton.
There were also the overhead conditions, the pink ball and the uncertainty in the pitch that played their respective parts. The bowlers stuck to their task and gave nothing away, using the available help to the utmost. Even Moeen, who was slightly unfortunate not to be introduced by the captain as soon as Khawaja came in, bowled a very tight line even as the conditions were more up the alley of swing and seam.
There was perhaps more than good reason for the Australians to be circumspect.
But, the trouble with slow batting is that if wickets are lost after all the sluggish progress, there are not enough runs on the board to justify the lethargy.
As we look back on the first day, it seems that Root does have sufficient reason to be satisfied with his difficult decision to bowl first.
The effect of the floodlights in the Adelaide Test is yet to be ascertained. There may be some intriguing elements thrown in by the addition of this new-fangled parameter. But for now, England do have reasons to be happy.