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

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Life & Style
Wasp factory: 1.3 million examples of the Vespa scooter have been sold in the last decade
motoringIconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books