Cricket: Crowe hands warning to captains on eve of Ashes test

By Derek Pringle

A good performance is needed from Kevin Pietersen, one of England's senior players. Photo / AP
A good performance is needed from Kevin Pietersen, one of England's senior players. Photo / AP

The atmosphere at the Adelaide Oval today will lack some of the gladiatorial intensity of the Gabba, not least because the stadium is only half finished, but that has not stopped match referee Jeff Crowe from warning the England and Australian captains about the behaviour of their players before the second test.

England admit to sledging opponents but there was an intensity about the Brisbane test, possibly whipped up by the boorish crowd, that caused even old hands such as Ian Chappell to feel it was unacceptable.

Senior members of the England and Wales Cricket Board at the match were so astounded by the behaviour of Australia's supporters that representations have been made to Cricket Australia about the possibility of not playing there on future tours.

Whether the fans or the tasteless propaganda in the local press drove the players, especially Australia's, to ever-more aggressive taunts, remains unanswered, but, whatever the reason, it took many, Alastair Cook's team included, by surprise.

"Some of those scenes were ugly at the end of the game," Cook agreed.

"We do have a duty to play the game in the right way. We do want to play tough cricket, just like Australia do, but we have to make sure we stick to those boundaries and as captain I bear responsibility for that.

"Jeff has had a chat with me, but we all know the responsibilities we have when we pull on the shirt. No matter how much emotion there is in the game, we know how many people are watching us and we have got to behave appropriately.

"It shouldn't be a tea party, though. People pay good money to see tough, competitive cricket. That is what people love about the Ashes or any competitive cricket."

Cook himself appears impervious to verbal barbs, but that may not be the case for the new faces whom England could decide to blood here.

Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes are both possibilities for a place in the side, depending on the composition of the bowling attack.

An Ashes test is not the easiest place to make a debut, which is why Cook needs his senior players Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, James Anderson and Graeme Swann, to perform for him here.

Pietersen, who made a double century here three years ago, averages more than 100 at the Adelaide Oval, so an average performance from him would suit England well. With Joe Root almost certain to bat at three, the middle order of Pietersen and Bell need to make telling scores if the team are to make more than 400, something they have not achieved for 17 innings.

"The senior players will have to lead the way if we are going to get back into the series," Cook said.

Watching the nets it was not immediately obvious who might deliver Cook the bounty he desires.

Bell retired hurt after being hit on the shoulder while facing throwdowns from Graham Gooch, the England batting coach, but was not thought to be a doubt for the test, just as Michael Clarke's decision to sit out yesterday's practice session with a sore ankle was not considered a serious problem.

The drop-in pitch was reportedly very dry, which is not how drop-ins usually begin a five-day match.

As such, Cook admitted that playing a second spinner was a serious consideration, something borne out when Monty Panesar took Mushtaq Ahmed, England's spin bowling coach, out to the middle to discuss field placings (there was a lot of pointing going on).

In the final test at the Oval, England played Chris Woakes, an all-rounder, to compensate for the extra spinner, something they could do again here with a fit-again Tim Bresnan or Ben Stokes.

Or they could just play Panesar and Swann as part of a four-man attack alongside Anderson and Stuart Broad, with Root to fill in a few overs.

It is most likely, unless they feel the pitch will dust up by day three, that Bresnan will return, in place of Chris Tremlett, and slot in alongside the usual trio, which would mean Ballance would almost certainly make his test debut.

Australia have only one spinner in their squad, though Steve Smith can bowl some wrist-spin, but it is not the slow stuff England's batsmen will be worried about. Instead, all eyes will be on Mitchell Johnson and how much pace and bounce he can extract from what is traditionally a benign surface.

In the nets yesterday, Chris Rogers took a battering from Johnson and looked relieved when it was over.

If England's batsmen can come off wearing the same expression, but with runs to their name, the Ashes may be yet retained.

Australia v England

* Played:332
* Aust won 134, Eng 105, drawn 93
* Last played: Aust beat Eng by 381 runs in first Ashes test in Brisbane in Nov 2013
* Previous series: Eng 3-0 win over Australia in UK in Aug 2013
* England have won three series in a row. The last time England won four consecutive series was between 1884-1890 (won seven)
* At Adelaide Oval: Played 30, Australia 16, England 9, drawn 5
* Most recent Ashes test in Adelaide: 2nd test Dec 2010. Eng (5-620 declared) beat Australia (245 and 304) by an innings and 71 runs

Australia's record in 2013

* Played 11, won 2, lost 7, drawn 2
* Despite its reputation for draws, 12 of the past 15 Adelaide tests have provided results although the two Shield games on drop-in pitches this summer have been draws

Forecast for today

* Scattered showers with possible hail and a top of 19

Teams

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.

England (likely): Alastair Cook (c), Michael Carberry, Joe Root, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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