Flintoff's call a key factor in England's Ashes challenge

Vaughan stays upbeat despite duck

A large proportion of the England supporters in South Australia may end up not giving one if the performance of Andrew Flintoff's side here mirrors that of Brisbane, but the outcome of the second Test, and probably the fate of the Ashes, appears to depend on the captain's ability to call correctly at the toss tonight.

If Flintoff makes the right choice and elects to bat he will have given England their best chance of drawing level in the series. Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen will need to avoid the first-day nerves that turned Stephen Harmison into a jittering wreck, but if they can take England's first innings total past 350, they will put this highly motivated and ruthless Australian side under pressure.

England's success in 2005 was based around batting first and posting competitive totals. Michael Vaughan's side achieved this goal in all but the first Test at Lord's - which they lost. By batting first England also prevent Shane Warne from bowling on a worn pitch that is taking spin. England's batsmen countered Warne reasonably well in Brisbane but this is a venue where the leg-spinner has taken more than 50 Test wickets.

And because of the Warne effect, along with concerns about the quality of England's bowling, one fears the worst for the tourists if Flintoff were to lose the toss. Flintoff has lost the toss in four of his last five games as captain, so is he out of form with the coin, or is he due to win one? It was at the second Test in 2005 that Ricky Ponting made a howler when he invited England to bat on a slow, flat, Edgbaston pitch. It was the error that let England back in to the series, and it is hard to believe the Australian captain will make the same mistake at a delightful Adelaide Oval, where the winner of the toss has batted first on 22 of the previous 23 occasions. Indeed, the last time an Australian captain opted to bowl first here was in 1980.

The pitch is considered to be the most batsman friendly in Australia, a verdict endorsed by the home side who have passed 550 in three of the the last four occasions they have played here. In the other game they scored a paltry 428. The high scoring has not produced boring draws, with only one of the last 15 Tests ending in a stalemate.

Adelaide is a venue that Australia enjoy playing at. They have won nine and lost one of their previous 11 matches here and their top four batsmen - Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn - all average more than 50 at the venue.

It is hoped that Flintoff's men do not spend too much time analysing these statistics because they are pretty intimidating, but they do give an indication of the size of the task facing the team. England are likely to make one change to the side heavily beaten in the first Test, with Monty Panesar coming in for James Anderson.

The pitch in Adelaide offers spinners more assistance than most but it is also a nice ground to bowl seam on. There is normally something in the surface for the quicker men, especially on the first morning when the new ball swings. The abrasive nature of the pitch encourages reverse-swing but the true bounce and short boundaries square of the wicket make it a difficult ground to defend.

Despite the boundaries, Panesar must play as a second spinner. He is a potential match-winner and even if he does not take a stack of wickets he should give his captain the control that was missing in Brisbane. Panesar and Ashley Giles do not offer England great variety. Harmison's rehabilitation continued in the nets yesterday and he looks set to keep his place.

Andrew Strauss realises how difficult it will be to turn things around. He said: "We know that in the first three days in Brisbane we did not play to the levels we need to to beat Australia. We have shown in past series that we can come back from an early defeat and we need to learn from the mistakes we made at the Gabba.

"We can't keep looking back to 2005 because what took place then is now largely irrelevant. But the important thing is that we did learn lessons from the defeat at Lord's, and we have to do the same here.

"We need to try and put Australia under pressure. We have plans on how to do it but we need to put them into action. There is still a very positive vibe in the camp. It is not all doom and gloom. We have to build on the few positives that came out of the first Test."

England's bowling in Brisbane was worryingly ineffective but their batting in the first innings was poor, too. Several batsmen got out to soft shots and no one was more culpable than Strauss, who was caught twice in the deep hooking.

"When you hook you have to pick the right ball and on two occasions in the last game I did not do that," said Strauss. "It is something I need to work on. I need to be more selective on length and possibly wait until the ball is a little older before I play the shot. I will continue to play it because it has brought me a lot of runs.

"You have to be positive against Australia and take the game to them if you want to beat them, but you don't want to be reckless. Unfortunately, having got out twice, I looked reckless in the first Test."

Australia are expected to name an unchanged side. They are expecting to win the match whereas England, one feels, would be content with a draw.

Michael Vaughan described his return to competitive cricket as a "real positive" even though it ended in a seven-ball duck in England Academy's defeat to Western Australia Second XI in Perth.

Vaughan, the England captain until knee problems and surgery late last year, was playing his first match since his operation. He began in the field, and was untroubled by his injury in his short stay at the crease - batting at No 4 in the rain-shortened one-day match which saw his side stumble to 4 for 2 on the way to an unsuccessful reply to 218 for 8.

"Obviously, it's slightly disappointing I didn't get any runs - but to be honest, today was all about getting back to playing cricket," he said after the Academy's 40-run defeat. Vaughan added: "It's a huge positive to me that I'm back on the field playing cricket. It is the early stages of a comeback."

Aussie stronghold Oval record

Australia have won nine and lost one of the last 11 Tests they have played in Adelaide. The defeat, to India in 2003, came when they were deprived of the services of their two finest bowlers, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

Last 11 matches at Adelaide Oval

Year/Opponents/Aus Runs/Result

2005 West Indies/610 for 13/Aus by 7 wkts

2004 New Zealand/714 for 10/Aus by 213 runs

2003 India/752 for 20/India by 4 wkts

2002 England/552 for 10/Aus by inns & 51 runs

2001 South Africa/746 for 17/Aus by 246 runs

2000 West Indies/533 for 15 /Aus by 5 wkts

1999 India/680 for 18 /Aus by 285 runs

1998 England/669 for 15/Aus by 205 runs

1998 South Africa/577 for 17/Draw

1997 West Indies/517 for 10/Aus by inns & 183 runs

1996 Sri Lanka/717 for 15/Aus by 148 runs

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum