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Australia in the pink as England look for the light

Adelaide has been primed (hopefully not by the same ‘linesman’ who stumped Moeen Ali) in readiness for the bright lights of its third day/night Test. It has also been painted as the best chance for England to get back in to the Ashes.

It’s almost universally accepted that the Kookaburra pink ball, more known for seam and swing, will suit the English.  In the twilight hours, James Anderson and Stuart Broad must be dreaming this could be Edgbaston and Trent Bridge 2015 all over again….

But with a booming Brisbane win behind them and their opponents guilty of strange greetings in foreign lands, the hosts are now trying anything on for fun. Coach Darren Lehmann even suggested: “It does quicken up at night. It’s probably the fastest wicket around Australia at night.”Anything to bring up The Fear. He may even have a point…

That’s the problem Joe Root’s team face. The Aussies are having way too much fun. Steve Smith was in stitches when Cameron Bancroft was marking headbutts out of 10 during the post match press conference at the Gabba. Who’s going to rattle home grills on the barbie? Who’s going to charge down the wicket and smash the goading Nathan Lyon out of the attack? Viv Richards might be pushing a point when he says England are like “kittens” without Ben Stokes, but they could do with an attack dog. Or even a puppy biting ankles.

Just over a decade ago, England had a four-pronged pace attack for a short but glorious period, and  once scored 400 in a day against the Baggy Greens. Even when Andrew Strauss’s team become mechanical bores, they still posted big scores and then squeezed the opposition dry while taking wickets at the same time.

The Three Lions can’t do either at the moment.  Yes, they turned Smith into a tortoise in the first Test but tortoises have a hard shell and survive for up to 150 years. Or for 141.Not out.

Here’s another thing. Australia have won all three of their day/night Tests. Mitchell Starc, a previous critic of the pink ball,  delivered a career-best 8-73  for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield spanking of South Australia in October with a superb piece of reverse swing bowling.

In the inaugural day-night Test in November 2015 against New Zealand, Josh Hazlewood  picked up nine wickets, setting up batsmen patiently and then bowling fuller to induce an edge an lbw.  If the hosts want to further replicate Anderson, they even have their own horses for courses bowler ready and waiting in the Adelaide stables. Chadd Sayers took six wickets in the day-night Shield clash against NSW at the Oval last month, including the wicket of skipper Smith. He’s bagged 243 wickets at 23.5. Not too shabby for a 30-year-old who is a not so secret admirer of the Burnley Express.

As Sayers says: “”Batsmen hate the swinging ball so if you can pitch it up and challenge their defence 100 per cent of the time than they’ve got to make the right decisions.”

The  conditions will suit England. But they may also suit Australia just fine too.

By Tim Ellis