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Work to do for tourists to claw their way back

In normal circumstances, defeat on the scale of the 381-run trouncing suffered by England in the first Test at Brisbane last month would induce pessimism among the vanquished side's followers.

Mitchell Johnson terrorised England's batsmen in the first Test at Brisbane
Mitchell Johnson terrorised England's batsmen in the first Test at Brisbane

But it appears the majority of English pundits and Barmy Army foot-soldiers still believe their side will triumph in the Ashes battle and regain the initiative when the second Test commences in Adelaide late tonight.

The cause for their positivity is slightly baffling, given the departure of Jonathan Trott with a stress-related illness, the failure of Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin to press home their selection claims during last week's bounce game in Alice Springs, and the manner in which Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon rose to the challenge at The Gabba and performed with old-fashioned vim, venom and va-va-voom.

Of course, the Australians were due a victory and their opponents are notoriously slow starters on these long-haul foreign tours. But, all the same, Alastair Cook's men need to heed these vital lessons if they are to transform the early momentum of the series.


History has demonstrated that the mercurial all-rounder rarely deals in anything as boring as consistency. England looked clueless in coping with Johnson's raw pace and angles of attack last time, but they have handled better fast bowlers than him in the past, including Dale Steyn. What they cannot afford to do is play at deliveries which they can leave, or get lulled into the daft shots which cost the likes of Kevin Pietersen dearly at The Gabba. Patience, technique and yes, courage, are the key ingredients to extinguishing mad Mitch's menace.


It looks as if Andy Flower and his colleagues will recall Tim Bresnan at the expense of Chris Tremlett, but one wonders whether they should not at least consider the merits of being bolder. Michael Carberry, for all that he top-scored in England's feeble first-innings capitulation, simply does not convince as an international opener and it might be best for Alastair Cook and Joe Root to kick things off with Gary Balance and James Taylor being offered opportunities in the middle-order. Whatever XI they pick will be fragile, unless Matt Prior can somehow regain his form and Stuart Broad proves he can actually bat.


He is pretty nifty on Twitter and has perfected his cheeky-chappy persona, but Graeme Swann was out-bowled by Lyon during the first tussle. Swann has to slow down and rediscover the guile and miserly qualities which have been his trademark. If he does not, Monty Panesar is waiting. As for playing with two spinners? England cannot go in with a tail featuring both of them, Anderson and Broad, or they are a collapse waiting to happen.


England are tough professionals, who have grown accustomed to rallying in adversity. If they cannot handle being threatened with having their limbs broken by responding in the best possible manner, namely sending the next ball fizzing to the boundary, they are not going to progress very far. With the obvious exceptions of Pietersen and Broad, they just require a little more strut and to remember they have won the last three Ashes contests.


Frustration was setting in with Pietersen, Ian Bell and Prior after being stuck on the same score for four or five deliveries. What's the hurry? Geoff Boycott used to think nothing of walking in at lunch on 23 not out after two hours of concentration. The important thing was he was still at the crease. Too many of his modern compatriots confuse aggression with addle-headedness.

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