Ashes 2017: How England Come 2-0 down To Beat Australia

The optimism spectrum surrounding England’s Ashes chances has at one end “still in with a chance” and at the other “5-0 again”.

Ashes 2017 images picture pics

At 2-0 down after the 120-run defeat in Adelaide, Joe Root’s men have the slimmest chance of a turnaround. To cling on to the urn past Christmas, they must avoid being beaten in Perth, where England have not won since 1978.

The loss at the Adelaide Oval came in two halves – one where England was pretty awful and another where they improved enough to discomfort Australia.

Whether the tourists really do still have a realistic hope of retaining the Ashes or are now just playing to avoid the humiliation of a third whitewash in 11 years, there are lessons that must be learned.

Keep rattling Steve Smith

Steve Smith Images Picture Pics

Steve Smith’s 141 not out was a major difference between the two sides in Australia’s 10-wicket win in the first Test in Brisbane.

As England formulated plans, laid traps and set funky fields, captain Smith batted in a bubble for more than eight and a half hours.

In Adelaide, though, Smith was a different man, rattled by the chat of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in Australia’s first innings. At one stage, when Anderson was fielding next to where Smith was standing at the non-striker’s end, their conversation left the skipper twitching with irritation.

He was eventually bowled by Craig Overton for 40 and, in the second innings against the moving ball, survived a hair’s-breadth lbw shout against Anderson before being pinned by Chris Woakes for only six.

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“I think what we did in the first innings did work because we got him out quite cheaply,” said Anderson.

“Picking the right time to do something like that, trying to get someone out of their bubble and unsettle them is a good thing. At that point, he seemed more interested in having a chat with me and Stuart than focusing on his job.”

Smith’s captaincy came under scrutiny too. His decision not to enforce the follow-on came before Australia were dismissed for 138 in the second innings as England hooped the pink ball around under the lights.

When England began their chase of 354, he was visibly frustrated by the stand of 53 between Mark Stoneman and Alastair Cook, and again when Root and Dawid Malan added 78.

Smith burned both of his reviews in the space of three deliveries, dropped a catch, was taunted by the Barmy Army and later admitted to taking a sleeping pill to help him rest on the fourth evening.

And that’s when his team is on top. Imagine what might happen if England does get back into the series.

“I like what England did to Steve Smith, they disturbed him,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan.

“The great Steve Waugh used to try and take you out of the here and now by having conversations with you and reminding you of a dismissal from the week before.

“It takes them out of the concentration bubble and that’s what England tried to do with Smith. It worked.”

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Ashes 2017: How England Come 2-0 down To Beat Australia