The Ashes: Second Test Preview

Batsman hits ball

We preview the second Test of the 2017/18 Ashes series which sees Australia and England square off under the lights at the Adelaide Oval. 

Purists will question the merit, while the progressive will appreciate the change, as the Ashes series welcomes its maiden day-night Test match at the Adelaide Oval this week. Both teams, indeed, will literally be under the spotlight.

The hosts won't likely tinker with an XI that was entirely dominant in the series opener in Brisbane, while the tourists face several personnel decisions that could make or break the remainder of their five-fixture campaign.

Australia v England | 2 December - 6 December | Adelaide Oval, Adelaide 

To Win Match
Australia 6/10 | Draw 9/2 | England 5/2

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The Aussies delivered a major statement of intent by winning inside a bit more than four days at the Gabba. The size of the victory spoke volumes of their eagerness to match all the pre-series talk with plenty of substantive walk. Steven Smith's century was the epitome of a great captain's knock, while Cameron Bancroft's playful press conference showed that the home side are still able to have fun despite the heavy pressures of the much-vaunted rivalry.

Bancroft's second-innings vigil was hugely important in the bigger picture. His selection ahead of Matt Renshaw was a big gamble. It paid off in Brisbane, but needs to continue yielding profit in Adelaide and beyond. The opener looks the real deal and, alongside David Warner, forms a sterling duo to combat the attempted advances of James Anderson and Stuart Broad with the new ball.

Australia's bowling was not tested nearly enough in Brisbane, where Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood carried the load evenly. The relatively straightforward victory, and extra two sessions off, means that Starc, Cummins nor Hazlewood need to be rotated for the second Test. Chadd Sayers' chance will come, but not yet.

The hosts have lost just three of their last two dozen Tests at the Adelaide Oval. Two of those were against England, in 2010 and 1995. The Australians don't have a single survivor from defeat seven years ago, while England have three in Anderson, Broad and Alastair Cook.

Australia are certainly the more experienced in day-night Test cricket. They've played three to England's one, winning each and every time - twice in Adelaide. While Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird were the support acts then, the onus is on Cummins to complement, if not supersede, Starc and Hazlewood this time.

While it's proving increasingly likely England will have Ben Stokes back for the third or fourth Test, they must continue to compose an adequate XI without the talismanic all-rounder. In his absence, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball simply have to do better with the ball, while Woakes has to offer more with the bat.

It's not unlikely Woakes won't play in Adelaide, though, as calls for Mason Crane to get a gig heighten. The 20-year-old leg-spinner would be thrust to the fore of plenty of pressure, but his ability to skid and turn the ball into the left- and away from the right-handers - under lights - could yield a certain x-factor for England.

The visitors crumbled alarmingly quickly through the second half of the Gabba encounter. Their response will be intriguing. They'll capitulate further or dig deep to orchestrate a telling turnaround, effectively leveling the playing fields for the remainder of the series. Their collective fighting character suggests the latter.

Either way, they need to put the fresh news of Stokes in New Zealand and the off-field theatrics between Jonny Bairstow and Bancroft behind them for a focussed five days. Former players and pundits have predictably told them what to do and how to do it, but only Andrew Strauss and Trevor Bayliss' words should be heeded.

England's lone day-night Test was just three months ago, when they beat the West Indies by an innings and then some. Cook scored a big double-century in that match and, this week, the former captain really needs to go big again. Freed of the limelight, somewhat, after relinquishing the captaincy to Joe Root, Cook's responsibility at the top of the order is no less key.

Verdict: Australia 6/10
The psychology fight or flight within the England camp will be properly tested. They won't win this one, yet it won't necessarily spell the end of their campaign, but rather invoke the potential for a significant comeback across Tests three, four and five.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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