Joe will find out an awful lot about his players on this tour. He is only nine games into the job, and we have to remember he has a lot to learn about captaincy. But the frustration with this team is that they have to be cornered, and in a tight situation, before they respond.
England winning out here without Ben Stokes was always going to be a huge mountain to climb. In Adelaide the conditions were English, rather than Australian, yet they were still beaten, and quite comfortably so in the end. For England not to lose 5-0 Joe and his team will have to pull off something spectacular. This was their chance. If they can’t take 20 wickets here when the ball is moving around where will they do it? Where are they going to make the big scores?
Joe will be feeling the pressure. Captaincy is a lonely place. Steve Smith would have had couple of sleepless nights during this Test, Joe three or four wondering if he messed up over bowling first.
He has also been very open about his problem converting fifties into hundreds. The more he worries about it the less chance he has of improving it. He can’t think about it, he just has to play. My advice is that when he reaches 50 to walk away, tap himself on backside, look at the scoreboard and pretend he is on nought. It is hard when you fall in a trough getting out certain ways or for certain numbers. He has just got to clear his head of the scoreboard.
He should be pleased with way he played in the second innings. His old movements came back. In the first innings he was out leaning back with his head falling over to the off side and tried to hit the ball too hard. In the second innings he had his old fight back in him and his body language was strong. England can only compete with big hundreds from him and Alastair Cook.
Joe won the toss and opted to bowl. I did not have a problem with that decision, but England then bowled too short. This is Joe’s task. He went for the positive, attacking option in bowling first but his bowlers did not buy into it with their lengths. The batsmen then took too many risks in the first innings. Joe’s job is to get the bowlers to take risks with their lengths and the batsmen to minimise risks. He also has to ask why it takes criticism for the team to play better.
England never gave the ball a chance to hoop around after winning the toss. I can understand if you are bowling to guys like Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, who were so destructive on the front foot, that you might play it safe with lengths and worry about being blasted. But David Warner is the only batsman in the Australian side capable of being so powerful on the front foot.
There was no excuse for England to bowl safe and short. In the second innings, after they had been criticised and gifted a route back into the Test, they they came out with better intent and attitude. The result was they bowled Australia out cheaply.
At this level you need that mentality all the time. Bowlers have to be willing to risk their length. Australia only scored 11 runs down the ground on day one out of 209. That tells you all you need to know about the length England were bowling.
When batting England were so frenetic in the first innings. This is a team that cannot cope when they take guard in their first innings with the opposition having a big number already on the board.
Over the past two years when England have batted first they average 400 with 18 centuries. When they bat second they average 262 with one hundred. I want to know why they are so poor when they bat second. It can only be a mental thing. They seem to go to gears three and four far too quickly.
It is not as if they have been on the wrong end of conditions in this series so far. They had perfect batting conditions in Brisbane both times and they started their innings twice in the day time in Adelaide. By the time the lights came on in the second innings in Adelaide the ball was 44 overs old.
They batted without common sense in the first innings, throwing hands at the ball. Compare that to Australia. Shaun Marsh played out 169 dot balls. He was willing to do hard work like Steve Smith did in the first Test.
One small change that could help is moving Vince down to five and Malan up to three. It would allow Vince to play shots against the older ball and Malan to dig in early on.
I just wonder why it takes England to be forced into a corner and criticised before they start to play properly. It must be driving Joe mad too.