Adelaide’s revamped ground and drop-in pitch dictated action as battle began.
After the fire and brimstone of Brisbane, the quality of the first day at the Adelaide Oval was more akin to a meeting of two household pets, half-butting, half-nuzzling, with intent, not affection, but nor the incivility of the Gabba.
The effect was completed by an initially showery and always breezy day, cooling all ardours, and the generally gentler polity of the Adelaide crowd, sections of which booed Stuart Broad, but remembered itself enough to applaud team milestones.
The ground is much changed, but its soul is intact.
The balming agent was the pitch: drop-in, yes, but also a catalyst for dropping off, a featherbed to Brisbane’s hotbed. Its nature is best illustrated by the trajectory of the few bouncers bowled; they looped over the batsmen like Rafael Nadal’s topspin lob. Call them bloopers. Spinners bowled almost half the overs, and the exchange rate was three an over, parsimonious by Adelaide Oval standards.
On such a surface, speaking of domestic animals, there are many ways to skin a cat. For both batting and bowling team, the key was patience. It made for cricket in a different mode and temper altogether to Brisbane. At the pivotal point of the first day in Brisbane, Broad was bowling fiery bouncers at Michael Clarke. In the middle of day one here, it was Ben Stokes and Monty Panesar to Chris Rogers.
Australia’s front-line batsmen presented a contrast. Rogers waits for the ball to come to him, so much that one early delivery from Jimmy Anderson lodged in his sleeveless sweater. David Warner tries to work around it, making loose balls out of good. On his best days, it works, disorienting all. When it doesn’t, it reeks of hubris. Yesterday, when he might have left one, he toe-ended a cut to point.
Shane Watson’s usual way is to meet the ball with a mechanical technique, hard to penetrate, easy to set a field to.
Rogers, not believing in free lunches, remained suspicious of every offering. Otherwise, he was unprepossessing, unobtrusive, unflappable, but most of all un-out. Alastair Cook and England’s spinners crowded him with three under his nose, but he affected not to see them. He and Watson batted half the day for their stand of 121.
But no more than Rome and grandstands are winning positions built in a day. Bailey blazed three insouciant sixes in his maiden Test 50.
England persevered, but dropped three catches — the last a gift that will give Michael Carberry lifelong nightmares — and blew two referrals.