Should Australia Change Their Winning Team for 2nd Ashes Test?

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 24:  Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of James Anderson of England and winning the first test during day four of the First Ashes Test match between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 24, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australia march into the second Test of this Ashes series against England on a wave of confidence, after a 381-run hammering of their visitors in Brisbane last week.

Through a savage Mitchell Johnson, the home side humiliated Alastair Cook's men inside four days to capture not only a handsome 1-0 series lead but also a seismic shift in momentum.

However, Australia weren't without concerns at the 'Gabba.

While Johnson's heroics captured the headlines, the brilliance of the left-armer's performance glossed over the poor showing from a number of Michael Clarke's batsmen; Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steven Smith and George Bailey all putting up underwhelming showings on a flat Brisbane wicket.

Furthermore, the conditions in Adelaide are expected to be vastly different from those in Queensland, meaning Australia's selectors have decisions to make regarding the makeup of the team to face England on Thursday.

Here, we analyse those decisions.


Expected Conditions in Adelaide

Adelaide is now a very different venue to the one cricket fans have become accustomed to throughout the years. The famous old ground is currently undergoing a transformation into a modern, multipurpose arena as Australian Rules Football prepares to descend on the once-traditional cricket ground in 2014.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 02: A general view during an Australian training session at Adelaide Oval on December 2, 2013 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)
Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

Consequently, in addition to the venue's changing grandstands, the Adelaide Oval will now be home to a far different wicket than the batting paradise that has characterised the ground's existence until now.

With Australia's predominant football code set to use the ground during winters, ground staff at the Adelaide Oval are now being forced to implement drop-in pitches—wickets that are prepared away from the ground and dropped into the centre square.

This process results in surfaces of a completely different nature.

Unlike conventional wickets, drop-in pitches—like the one used in Melbourne—can't be prepared quite as hard, with heavy rollers unable to be used as effectively. To maintain bounce and carry in the softer surfaces, a covering of grass tends to be left on the wicket, making the pitch somewhat less predictable on the opening day in particular. 

However, the end result of the drop-in process tends to be a far slower wicket that is somewhat conducive to turn but incredibly barren for the quicker men.

So unlike the pace and bounce in Brisbane that resulted in an explosive match, this Adelaide Test is set to be a battle of attrition.


Possible Selection Change

While Rogers, Smith and Watson were disappointing at the 'Gabba, all three have centuries in their last handful of Test innings.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21:  George Bailey of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed by James Anderson of England during day one of the First Ashes Test match between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 21, 2013 in Brisbane, Au
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Consequently, the man under most pressure is Ashes debutant George Bailey. 

In the first innings in Brisbane, the limited-overs revelation was cunningly worked over by James Anderson, who exposed his penchant for playing at deliveries that could easily be left alone. A second-innings 34 was obviously more promising but can't be awarded much significance, given the match situation when he arrived at the crease.

Combined with Bailey's unconvincing display in Brisbane, the selectors' desire to reduce the bowling workload on Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle could see the introduction of all-rounder James Faulkner at No. 7, pushing wicketkeeper Brad Haddin up to No. 6.



Replacing Bailey with Faulkner would address the major concerns held by Australia's selectors regarding the fitness of the team's fast bowlers.

With James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and Pat Cummins all sidelined with injuries, the health of Johnson, Harris and Siddle is perhaps the most critical element of this series for the home side.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  James Faulkner of Australia appeals successfully for the wicket of Alastair Cook of England during day five of the 5th Investec Ashes Test match between England and Australia at the Kia Oval on August 25, 2013 in London, Engl
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Faulkner's presence would undoubtedly relieve much of the burden from Australia's front-line seamers, with the 23-year-old all-rounder capable of completing 20 very solid overs for his captain.

In that situation, Johnson and Harris in particular could be used in shorter spells to maximise the impact of their sheer pace. If Australia's lethal opening pair are required to perform more grinding roles, their threat will be greatly diminished.

Additionally, Shane Watson's status remains less than clear. Given that the 32-year-old only completed two overs in Brisbane, it's unlikely that Watson is capable of pounding away on an unforgiving Adelaide surface, just a month after sustaining a hamstring injury.

Faulkner's inclusion would ensure Watson is allowed time to reach peak fitness before resuming bowling duties, while also protecting the team's spearheads from gruelling days in the field ahead of a very quick turnaround for the third Test in Perth. 



The only drawback to Faulkner's possible inclusion is the impact it could have on the team's already fragile batting lineup.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin would be forced to move up a spot, with Faulkner slotting in behind the veteran gloveman at No. 7.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Steve Smith of Australia looks dejected after being dismissed by Chris Tremlett of England during day one of the First Ashes Test match between Australia and England at The Gabba on November 21, 2013 in Brisbane, Austra
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Although the all-rounder has been spectacular with the bat in the limited-overs formats, his record at first-class level is hardly as impressive, where he averages just 30.52 in 40 matches without a 100.

Given that Australia's middle order still remains susceptible to rapid collapses, the removal of a specialist batsman for a bowling all-rounder could be telling if England manage to compile a large first-innings score.

Faulkner's potential selection would also remove significant leadership from the Australian camp, with Bailey having spent time as the team's captain in both ODI and Twenty20 cricket. While his performances in Brisbane were disappointing, the value of calm and mature figures can't be underestimated in an Australian dressing room that has lacked leadership in recent times.



Dropping Bailey after just one Test appearance would certainly be harsh, particularly when you consider his form in coloured clothing over the past 12 months.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  James Faulkner of Australia celebrates the wicket of Ian Bell of England during day five of the 5th Investec Ashes Test match between England and Australia at the Kia Oval on August 25, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Gar
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

However, at 1-0 up, Australia can't afford to take any chances with the health and fitness of their in-form fast bowlers.

Although Faulkner's inclusion would weaken the batting lineup, his presence would greatly reduce the chance of injury or debilitating fatigue for Johnson and Harris, ensuring the spearheads are ready to fire on a more pace-friendly Perth wicket next week.

Unquestionably, there are risks involved with the all-rounder's selection, but including him for this particular venue would be the correct call for Australia.


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