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Ashes 2021/22: Four things England must improve on ahead of second test in Adelaide

After a complete slump in Brisbane, England must look to improve in all areas of the game ahead of Adelaide

England’s cricketers will look ahead to their next test on Thursday 16 December at the Adelaide Oval following their disastrous nine wicket defeat at the Gabba last week.

Rory Burns being bowled the very first ball of the 2021/22 Ashes series was too harrowing an omen not to have foreseen what was going to happen over the next three and a half days.

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England’s Captain Joe Root offered a glimmer of hope following his duck in the first innings, along with Twenty20 specialist Dawid Malan, as the pair both made scores of over 80, taking England to 223 for 2 in the second innings before another (and arguably predictable) batting collapse which ended with England totalling just 297 before all players were out.

England have not won at the Gabba since 1986 and 2021 was going to be no different for Root’s squad.

Root trudges off after scoring 89 on fourth day of Ashes test

Root and Silverwood had hoped to channel some of the 1986/87 and 2010/11 magic and took a bold move in differing from previous captains’ choices when he took the stance to bat first.

However, Australia were on the money from the very beginning and barely put a foot wrong over the four day period.

England must now look forward to the next opportunity of play as they take on Australia again in just three days’ time. They will play in their first day/night test of the series at the Adelaide Oval and fans will hope to see some vast improvements in the quality and style of play that their side produce.

What must England do ahead of the next test?

Batting Collapses

Cricketing critics and journalists have hampered on about this point for years (myself included) but they will continue to do so until there is a reliable and consistent opening partnership and batting collapses becomes an infrequent and unexpected disappointment rather than the typical outcome.

Burns made 0 and 13 in opening test match

Fans become ecstatic when an opening partnership lasts the first hour of a test and the excitement is barely controllable when a century stand is seen by the openers. It is possible to count the number of century stands in the last few years on one hand but if England are to succeed in opposition countries, they must wear down the opening bowlers in order for the remaining batters to stand a chance.

Go to our first day reaction article to find out what England can do to improve their batting.

Squad selection

Fans and former cricketers all questioned the decision to leave out both James Anderson and Stuart Broad. With over 1,100 test wickets between them it seemed a particularly strange choice to not include at least one of England’s best bowlers.

There had been many debates as to whether England should have gone with five seamers and no specialist spinner, with Root stepping up to fill the gap. However, quite possibly to their detriment, Jack Leach was selected and finished the match with figures of 1/102. He had an average of 7.85 and his only saving grace was taking the crucial wicket of Manus Labuschagne who was on 74.

It seems highly plausible that Leach will not be seen in Adelaide, potentially making way for fellow spinner Dom Bess, but Root may take the plunge and play five seamers, hopefully bringing back the veterans: Anderson and Broad.

Neither Bess nor Leach are sadly of anywhere near the same ability as Nathan Lyon, and England’s greatest tragedy will be that Adil Rashid does not play in test cricket. While Lyon remains and England appear to only have the options of Bess and Leach, Australia will always have an exceptionally useful and discernible advantage.

Fielding

While Australia put on an incredible display of cricketing prowess, England cannot blame the oppositions’ skill for the defeat.

The number of missed chances England had were almost worth crying over. David Warner’s wicket on Ben Stokes’ no-ball was quite possibly the most heartbreaking. However, it was not England’s only chance of getting the opener out. Burns did not do much to redeem his golden duck as he dropped what should have been a routine slip catch when Warner was on 48 and this was soon followed by a fluffed run-out chance by Haseeb Hameed just 12 runs on.

Warner made his way to 94 before Stokes took the catch off Ollie Robinson.

The fielding in general was sloppy and if England are to level the scores in Adelaide this week, the slip catching and run out hopes must be tightened up and improved. Over the last few years, England have notably improved their overall fielding skills, but they cannot afford to get complacent and have to regain their concentration and patience if they stand a chance in this series.

Preparation time

Overall it can be said that England have not had significant preparation time ahead of this series. Before the test began, Root said that they could not be better prepared, but he must have been speaking in terms of spoken tactics rather than in practice.

For many, the last test that was played was in August and the weather in Australia has hindered many scheduled test practises between the Ashes squad and Lions squad.

Anderson and Broad will hope to return to the pitch on Thursday

The Gabba seemed to be a chance for England to practise their test cricket rather than compete. Luckily, Australia has provided much better weather since the first day of the test and has allowed Anderson and Broad to put in some useful hours in the nets and England will hope that the first test may not have given them a series advantage but will have given some needed in playing down under before they tackle their rivals again on Thursday.

England will play Australia on Thursday 16 December at the Adelaide Oval, and play will begin at 4am GMT.

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