Ashes Series Tips: No evidence England are in the pink

Mitchell Starc
Starc has an excellent record under lights

England are hopeful the pink ball will aid their seamers in the Second Test but Ed Hawkins warns their batting frailties should be exposed again under lights from Adelaide from Thursday...

"England knocked their front teeth out on the first hurdle, leaving them gummy and awkward at The Gabba"

Just four days into the Ashes series and the prognosis is grim for England. A heavy defeat in Brisbane had an overwhelming sense of familiarity. A heavy series defeat has an overwhelming sense of inevitability.

Australia are no better than 1.192/11 for the win while a 5-0 whitewash on the correct score marketis marginal favourite at 5.04/1. A 4-1 beating is 5.104/1.

England's batting frailties Down Under are nothing new. Nor are the dropped catches, wickets off no balls, missed run outs and pace bowlers looking knackered. We have seen it all before.

What was a novelty was England managing to psyche themselves out before a ball had been bowled. Leaving out both James Anderson and Stuart Broad of the XI for the first Test gave a fascinating and troubling insight into their mindset. It was a move of a timid and insecure team. One which is distracted by the next game. Whatever happened to the maxim: take each game as it comes?

And it has now caused them unnecessary issues. In our Cricket...Only Bettor previewwe spoke of the need for the tourists to not only start well but select well. Of course England needed to get off to the proverbial flyer but generally a team can only do that if they put the right names down on the teamsheet to begin with. England knocked their front teeth out on the first hurdle, leaving them gummy and awkward at The Gabba.

They now prepare for Adelaide, from early Thursday, having to start from scratch, leaving players out, undermining confidence. Anderson and Broad will play in Adelaide shorn of the match practice that the seamers who did line-up on Brisbane so desperately and obviously required.

While Australia are likely to go from strength to strength England are playing catch-up. Worst of all they are now left pinning their hopes on the pink ball swinging enough to get them back into the series. There are two significant problems with such naivety.

First of all, England's batsmen are more vulnerable to seam and swing then Australia's. England's batsmen were outbatted by Australia's in the 2019 series. And their list of averages over the past year read like an age roll call for an 18-30 holiday.

It wasn't only 2019 that their batters proved they could be squared up and turned inside out. England did not beat India in their own supposedly favourable conditions in the summer. Nor did they beat New Zealand.

Relying on a pink ball and day-night Test feels like they are clutching at straws. Adding a second day-night Test in Hobart, some pundits have argued, feels like Cricket Australia desperately trying to give England a chance to keep broadcasters and the public interested. They crave a competitive series. Australia have played eight day-night Tests, won eight. England have three defeats from four. Careful what you wish for.

Secondly, it is not true that the pink ball swings more than the red. CricViz analysis has shown that the red ball actually swings for longer. The difference is that the pink ball is a prodigious, nifty little mover at the start of an innings but dips below the red for movement.

Most troubling for England, who have consistently found life hard with the traditional red Kookaburra after 30 overs or so, is that the pink ball movement goes through the floor. According to the numbers, England would be better off with a red ball because it keeps their style of bowling attack in the game for longer. And look how that has worked out down the years in Australia.

The amount of swing and seam has been measured in degrees over the course of Australia's eight games under lights. And the amount of sideways movement is exactly the same. It's 0.7 degrees for red or pink. It's bit like arguing that you'll get less sozzled on red than rose at the Christmas party. It's just not true.

What the bartender has been adding to the mix for the Aussies is a different question, though. The home attack have been lethal, leaving opposition batters feeling as though they've hit the bar hard.
Mitchell Starc takes a wicket every 36 balls in pink ball Tests. Pat Cummins every 38. England could well be rolled again. The that Starc takes most first-innings wickets for Australia with Sportsbook is a price which could get hit very hard indeed, particularly with Josh Hazlewood ruled out.

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