Image: Wikimedia Commons / Daniel.Bryant
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Daniel.Bryant

The Ashes Second Test: emblematic of the roots behind England’s demise

The second test of this five-match Ashes series was the beginning of the end for England. Failing to win or draw in Adelaide’s day/night test dashed England’s chances of winning this Ashes series, meaning Joe Root’s team were 2-0 down, a score no England team has been able to come back from in the whole 139-year history of the Ashes. The test was emblematic of what has gone wrong for England in this series, and identified some of the key problems with the team, which will need fixing into the future.

This was the first day/night match of this year’s series, meaning that the match continued into the evening under either partial or full floodlights.

After winning the toss, Australia opted to bat first. Despite an early wicket seeing Marcus Harris caught on three runs, England struggled to rein in the Australian batsmen. David Warner, Marnus Labushange and Steve Smith went on to score 95, 103 and 93 runs respectively with wicketkeeper Alex Carey scoring his first test fifty, hits that underlined perhaps the key feature of this series: Australia’s brilliance, and England’s inadequacy, in the batting.

After racking up 473 runs, Australia declared at the perfect time. This meant that England’s openers, Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns, had to face the pink ball under floodlights at the Adelaide Oval.

This played heavily to Australia’s advantage. Rory Burns was dismissed in the second over, edging the ball straight into the hands of Mitchell Starc. Haseeb Hameed suffered a similar fate, falling for just six after being caught by Starc.

England ended the day with a mere 17-2 after play ended early due to a storm.

The next day’s play seemed to be more hopeful, with a strong partnership of 135 from Dawid Malan and Root.

However, this quickly unravelled when Root edged the ball to first slip and fell for 62 and Malan was caught by Smith for 80. Just over two hours later, England were already nine down, having only accumulated 220 runs.

The final wicket fell after a catch from Travis Head, resulting in Australia leading by 237. Despite having the option to force England to bat again for 17 more overs the same evening, Australia opted to bat themselves instead.

The third day’s dramatic collapse meant it was highly unlikely for England to secure a test win, however at this point a draw was still on the cards.

A glimmer of hope appeared when Warner was run out for just 13 after a mix-up in communications with Harris just before play drew to a close, with Australia finishing on 45-1.

Before play started on the fourth day, it was announced that Root would not be on the field due to an abdomen injury sustained during a pre-play warmup. He did not return to the game until 90 minutes in.

However, things started to look up for England after three Australian wickets fell in quick succession. Michael Neser fell for just three after being bowled by James Anderson, followed by Jos Buttler catching opener Harris for 23.

Looking to the future, England cannot afford to just lick their wounds.

But an opportunity to get the Australian captain out for a duck was missed after a drop from Buttler, a relatively simple catch compared to Harris. Smith almost departed the very next ball, but survived an lbw review. England were third time lucky when Smith was dismissed for only six after a successful catch this time from Buttler. Australia were now at 55-4.

Despite an early fall of wickets, Australia gained almost 100 more runs before the fifth wicket fell through a 102-run partnership between Labuschagne and Harris. An hour before tea, Australia decided to declare on 230-9, leaving England with an impossible target of 468 runs to win.

A draw still could have been achieved if England held out until the end of day five.

However, once again, England batted well below expectations, and, by the end of the fourth day England’s fate had been sealed. Hameed was removed for a duck after being caught behind by Alex Carey. Malan only reached 20 before an lbw dismissal while facing Neser.

It quickly became clear that a loss was the only option on the table. Burns was dismissed for 34 and key-player Root was caught on the final ball of the day, bringing the score to 82-4.

Day five only got worse, with Pope caught on the crease just minutes into play, taking England up to 86-5. No other batsmen were able to score over 20 runs apart from Chris Woakes, bowled by Jhye Richardson on 44, and Buttler, who hit his own stumps on 26.

The final wicket fell after Anderson was caught on two, resulting in England scoring 192 and Australia winning the second test by a massive 275 runs and leading the series 2-0.

The only team to have come back from 2-0 down was Australia in the 1936-37 series where Donald Bradman, who holds the record for the highest test batting average, scored 810 runs.

Australia looked certain to win an Ashes series for the third time in a row, after retaining them following a draw in the 2019 and winning in the 2017-18 series, and so it proved, as they once again trounced England to win the series, leading 3-0 with only two tests to play.

England have not won in Australia since the 2010-11 Ashes series; the 2017-18 series saw England suffering a 4-0 defeat and the 2013-14 series resulted in a 5-0 victory for Australia, and this trend has continued with this series, perhaps the most comprehensive in recent memory.

Looking to the future, England cannot afford to just lick their wounds. In the realm of test cricket, this is the worst England team in recent years, and some serious soul-searching will need to occur, identifying the problems in the team, and how they can be solved. Australia, meanwhile, are jubilant, and will hope that another 5-0 victory will soon be on the cards.

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