Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are “fit and ready to go” for the pink-ball Test starting on Thursday in Adelaide, when England will attempt to end Australia’s perfect home record in day-night matches and revive a faltering Ashes campaign.
The pair’s absence from the nine-wicket defeat in Brisbane dominated the post-match inquest. Anderson’s buildup period was limited after an early calf niggle on tour while Broad was overlooked for the subsequently mauled left-arm spin of Jack Leach.
But Chris Silverwood, a head coach-cum-selector under mounting pressure after one victory in 10, has confirmed the pair’s readiness to face an Australia side who have won all eight of their floodlit Tests at home.
“They are available, yes,” Silverwood said on Sunday, 24 hours before the team’s journey to Adelaide. “Jimmy will be fit and ready to go for the second Test, as will Stuart. [But] I have not told anyone they are playing yet.
“The guys have already been training with the pink ball behind the scenes. And what we have got is a very skilful set of bowlers. We have talent and we still have two of the best up our sleeve as well.”
Australia are also mulling a significant change: Josh Hazlewood has 28 wickets at 18 from five day-night Adelaide Tests but has flown to Sydney nursing a “mild” side strain. The pacy outswing of Jhye Richardson should step up here, if not Michael Neser after match figures of seven for 65 helped to beat an England Lions side in Queensland, despite 113 from James Bracey.
David Warner, suspected if not confirmed to have sustained a cracked rib when struck by a Ben Stokes short ball in Brisbane, will likely be given painkilling injections and hidden in the field to open at a ground where he averages 80. If the 35-year-old really struggles in training this week, Usman Khawaja is the spare batter in the squad.
England have endured three defeats in three floodlit Tests overseas to date, most recently a two-day thrashing against India in Ahmedabad this year when they completely misread conditions, picked frontline three seamers – plus Stokes – yet spin dominated and Joe Root claimed five for eight with his off-breaks.
Like then, Silverwood and his captain appear to be placing huge stock in the pink ball swinging under lights for Anderson and his teammates. Whether one or both veterans slot back in, a possible all-seam approach looms after Leach’s 13 overs at the Gabba were ruthlessly targeted to the tune of 102 runs.
Broad’s return, and potential reunion with Warner after dominating him at home in 2019, would mean one of Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson or Mark Wood missing out. Each ultimately held their own in Brisbane, however: Robinson the standout with match figures of four for 71, Wood beating the bat 24 times and picking up two wickets, and Woakes the most qualified No 8 in the squad.
Much will hinge on how Wood pulls up after 25.4 overs of sustained speeds, with Silverwood citing a need to look after their one “out-and-out pace bowler” given the absence of Jofra Archer and Olly Stone. If rested, however, it would mean a unvaried right-arm fast-medium attack and little by way of physical intimidation.
Either way, no spinner would challenge an over rate that has already cost England’s players their match fees and the team five World Test Championship points. Silverwood stressed this was a collective issue in the field and claimed the points deduction hurt more than losing around £14,500 a man.
Along with praising the chosen seamers, Silverwood praised Broad’s response to being left out initially. This appears to differ from his previous omission – in the first Test against West Indies in 2020 – when the now 35-year-old felt personally affronted and returned for a golden summer.
England’s frustration stems chiefly from ragged periods in the field at the Gabba and a batting lineup that, while supposedly working to a mantra of big totals, has passed 400 just once in their last 19 innings. Root this year has scored 1,052 more runs than the next best Englishman, Rory Burns, and they remain the side’s only centurions in 2021.
Asked about the dearth of batsmen – Root is the only England player to make a Test debut since 2012 and average more than 40 – Silverwood replied: “It is part of my role to take the criticism because the buck stops with me. I have no problem with that and it is how it should be, but we have to work with what we have got.”
This represented an honest if stark admission for the head coach, who has spent two years planning for this tour but now finds himself hoping the possible vagaries of pink-ball cricket can level a series that Australia lead 1-0.