This was a day and a venue for cashing in. Filling your boots is the cricket expression, and Adelaide Oval’s new drop-in pitch looked a par-400 strip, a slow turner out of the subcontinental mould but generally batsman-friendly.
But we know only too well that Australia’s batsmen tend to use up their credit. The home team is struggling to get enough runs after the first day of the second Test by its own profligate ways. History shows that you can never get too many in Adelaide; a succession of teams with apparently-formidable first-innings totals have been overhauled.
The sense of deja vu was overwhelming as the serial offenders – Shane Watson and David Warner – batted nicely until executing themselves. Even the barnacle Chris Rogers caught the malaise, and it was a day when the Australians were culpably wasteful, reaching stumps at 5-273.
The first four wickets fell to poor batting, to self-inflicted wounds. Maverick Warner tried to force the issue once too often and spooned to backward point, and Watson, who must surely soon hit his debt ceiling, waved his bat to the crowd for his 50 and almost immediately drove airily at James Anderson for a return catch. His conversion rate of 50s to 100s is now at three of 23 in Tests; it was such a quintessential innings from the gifted and frustrating underachiever.
Steve Smith was frozen and anchored in the crease so that he could not cover Monty Panesar’s orthodox spin and had his castle disturbed. Rogers at least cobbled 72 in his inimitable style, but even he perished to a lame poke at Graeme Swann’s sharp spinner to be caught behind.
Still, Rogers is a marvel as an opener, a man who has worked out a way to maximise his limited gifts. Most of his assets are above the shoulders: unerring concentration, courage, smarts. But he makes truckloads of runs with his short backlift and his punched cuts and deflections and dabs, and if it took Australian cricket until he was 35 to realise that he can play at the level, then so be it.
Of all the wickets that fell from attacking shots the most excusable was George Bailey’s. His savage hook at Stuart Broad came out of the middle and it took a fine catch by Swann to remove him. He was painted as his nation’s saviour and while that might be overstating matters somewhat, he was plucky today, advancing to the spinners and hitting out freely.
England drew another fine performance from Stuart Broad but also looked to Panesar and Swann, the spinners, in a break from tradition for a first-day pitch in Australia. They toiled through more than 40 overs and Panesar, playing for the first time since England’s tour of India, was impressive
Cricket Australia had earlier apologised for a rogue tweet from its official account that appeared to mock Panesar over his appearance, a week after a ground announcer in Alice Springs was sacked for allegedly insulting him. The tweet, quickly deleted, at the least was ignorant and insensitive, and at worst racist.
It follows a pattern, really, of abuse of the touring English team that does this country no credit. All this started with the local newspaper’s inciting of the crowd in Brisbane and has not ceased. It is classless. Strong banter is the stuff of Ashes legend, and should be encouraged. But people keep stepping over the line of decency.
As for the Australian team, it was left needing another herculean performance from Michael Clarke. Now there’s a familiar feeling.