England’s off-field dramas have diverted attention away from their raft of on-field woes leading into the Adelaide Test, which shapes as their best chance to fight back into the series.
History, injury and Test cricket’s embrace of the future are all conspiring to send England’s Ashes campaign to the verge of no return.
Already reeling from a heavy defeat, the visitors were dealt another blow to morale with reports of a midnight curfew imposed on the squad by team management in the wake of Jonny Bairstow’s headbutt incident.
History is already against the old enemy, who have not won or drawn a series on these shores after losing the first Test since 1954-55, when the express pace of Frank “Typhoon” Tyson spearheaded their charge.
Their cause is not being helped by a nasty cut to Moeen Ali’s spinning finger, while their unfamiliarity with the pink ball threatens to dilute any gain from an expected lush pitch that is likely to most resemble home.
Although the pink ball should increase the potency of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, the spectre of Mitchell Starc looms large over England’s inexperienced batting line-up, which folded meekly in the second innings in Brisbane.
Starc is a specialist with the pink Kookaburra and earlier this summer claimed a first-class career best 8/73 in the day-night round of the shield.
The hosts have a pronounced edge in Tests under lights, having played three matches compared to England’s one.
After seeing his team improve as the Gabba pitch gained more pace, coach Darren Lehmann cannot wait to take on Joe Root’s beleaguered men in Adelaide.
“At the back end when the wicket quickened up and we could go after them a bit harder was helpful. That’s the blueprint, it’s no secret we’re going to attack their middle and lower order like that. Hopefully that success continues,” Lehmann said.
“It’s a fascinating Test match, there’s a lot of talk about it’ll seam and it’ll swing.
“The ball stays pretty good, but you can make runs if you play well as per normal. And it does quicken up at night – it’s probably the fastest wicket around at night, so that’s going to be interesting, how it plays.
“We’re comfortable with where we sit having played it a few times. They played the Chairman’s XI game but it was a bit different to a Test match wicket. It’s bloody exciting.”
The England squad arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday and have three days to adjust to conditions before the first day-night Ashes Test. This will be ‘s third Test under lights in Adelaide.
“You’re more comfortable in your preparation, you know what you have to do to get ready,” Lehmann said.
“So the lead-in is a lot more normal for us than other teams having done it twice; this is the third time so we’re pretty comfortable where it sits. In terms of preparation and all that we’ll be fine, it’s just which team adapts the best I suppose.”
The perceived cultural issues besetting the England camp are a marked change from four years ago when it was Lehmann taking over an n team that had lost its way.
Lehmann, who was praised for bringing a more relaxed attitude into the n dressing room, said he was not a fan of curfews.
“We have faith in the blokes to do the right thing, but they’re grown men, they’re adults, and that’s just my personal opinion,” Lehmann said.
“You should enjoy your successes, there’ no dramas with that. It’s just making sure you don’t cross the line. I’m happy with where our blokes sit with that.”