Joe Root has told his England players that their harrowing experience in Brisbane is as tough as it gets, leaving “no excuses” as they head into their must-win second Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Sitting 1-0 down after an opening-day collapse to 147 all out in Brisbane practically settled the first Test, the tourists now welcome back Jimmy Anderson to their attack for the day-night second Test, while Australia’s David Warner is struggling to overcome a suspected broken rib.
Ben Stokes is similarly fit to play as an all-rounder following a knee injury – a full-throttle spell in the nets on Tuesday yesterday saw Root hit on the head – but ultimately England’s hopes of squaring the series may still rest on how the batting lineup fares.
“It’s not going to get any harder than that first day in Brisbane,” said Root. “Especially for guys who have not experienced what an Ashes series is like in Australia. We know it’s not going to get more difficult than that, so in that respect there’s no excuses.”
Stokes struggled last week following his return from a four-month break, making scores of five and 14 with the bat and sending down 12 wicketless overs that cost 65 runs. These included a reprieve for Warner, bowled off a no-ball for 17 en route to a crucial 94, with the front line repeatedly dogging him thereafter.
Root said: “It was a huge ask and I’m probably guilty as much as anyone – I expected too much of him – because I see him almost as a bit of a superhero. Look at what he’s done in the last couple of years when he’s played: at least once a series, maybe twice a series, he’s done something extraordinary which has won you a game on its own.
“You do get a little complacent about expecting that. It’s easy to forget that on a big occasion like this, whether that be because he’s not played a huge amount and also what he’s gone through recently, I think there was a little bit too much on him.
“But you know the character he is, it’ll have motivated him even more now to put in one of those magical performances, whether that comes this week or further down the line.”
Root has reminded his players of their series win in South Africa in early 2020 when they came back from defeat in the first Test, and he has stressed the importance of viewing this Ashes tour as a “marathon not a sprint” given the compact nature of the schedule.
History shows that an instant reply is needed this week, however, with Don Bradman’s Australia side in 1936-37 the only team in the history of the sport’s longest-running rivalry to come back from 2-0 down and win an Ashes series.
While Anderson looks set to play, albeit with the XI unlikely to be chosen until a final training session under lights on Wednesday evening, Stuart Broad is similarly pushing for a recall. The veteran pair have had extra time to prepare with the pink Kookaburra ball since being overlooked at the Gabba, with Root urging calm if they take the field.
“I think the only thing I’d probably say – and it sounds ridiculous – is not to try too hard,” said the captain. “They’ve not played the first game but they’re world-class performers, they know what they’re doing and should trust what they’ve done for so long. Just go and be Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad if you get your opportunity.”
Australia are confirmed to be without Josh Hazlewood due to a side strain – Jhye Richardson is expected to deputise – and may also have to turn to Usman Khawaja as a stand-in opener. Warner was struck in the ribs by a short ball from Stokes at the Gabba and, after missing the final two days, remained in some discomfort upon his return to the nets on Tuesday.