England conceded that they misjudged conditions for the day-night Test in Adelaide.
They expected more swing. And less spin.
They got more spin. And less swing.
And now they’re facing another crushing defeat to Australia on Monday’s last day when, set 486 runs to win, they resume at 4-82.
“The wicket is obviously turning,” England’s bowling coach Jon Lewis said after Sunday’s play.
“And we felt the ball would move around under the lights a little bit more than it has.
“In hindsight, you might say we should have picked a different side.
“But at the time, we felt like we picked a team that would win the game.”
But at the time, England ignored the warnings of Adelaide Oval’s head groundsman Damian Hough.
On match eve, Hough was asked if England would make a mistake by not playing a specialist spinner.
“Yeah, I think so. History says that the pitch will spin,” Hough said.
England then named a team without a specialist spinner.
Which led to the sight of England paceman Ollie Robinson bowling some off-spin on Sunday.
“It wasn’t in the plan,” Lewis said.
“However he has done it before, he has done it at Sussex.”
In fact, Robinson had bowled 26 overs of off-spin for Sussex in his career.
“It (off-spin) is something he did as a kid,” Lewis said.
“He started as a batter and an offspinner, so it’s not an alien skill to him.
“It’s something he can do. It’s something he practises not often in the nets but he does practice it.
“It’s another string to his bow and I think he actually bowled it okay.”
Lewis likened England’s bowlers to a racehorse returning from a spell.
“The guys are, I would say, short of a gallop in terms of we didn’t get any middle time in the warm-up games,” he said of a preparation ruined by Queensland rain.
“(But) the guys should be getting better by now.”
It came as Travis Head warned England they should never feel properly in against Nathan Lyon on day five in Adelaide.
With 43.2 overs already bowled and Joe Root out, England would need to become just the sixth side this century to bat out 134 overs in a fourth-innings to force a draw.
And the tourists’ task is made no easier by a wicket that has already shown plenty of bite and turn throughout the game.
Lyon was once criticised for his inability to spin Australia to fourth-innings wins, but he has made the job his own at the Adelaide Oval over the years.
He took a five-wicket haul against Pakistan two summers ago to take Australia to a big win, and did likewise on the ground against India in 2014-15.
Another two wickets will also see him draw level with Shane Warne for the all-time leading wicket-taker on the ground, with 56.
“Having played Shield cricket against him here, you can feel like you’re in,” Head said.
“They might look comfortable, and there was a big period where Gaz might not feel like he’s in the game.
“The ball is spinning consistently past the bat. When is the opportunity going to come?
“And then once that does come, it sort of opens it up.
“We know we can hold sustained pressure with Gaz, that he is going to create opportunities.”
A loss for England would be near fatal for their hopes of regaining the Ashes, given only Australia’s team in 1936-37 has come back from 2-0 down to win a five-Test series.
Ben Stokes looms as England’s last real hope, needing something akin to his Headingley heroics in 2019 to save the game.
The allrounder has slowly worked his way into the series, admitting he was unhappy with his returns in Brisbane before being let down by his lower order in the first innings in Adelaide.
“They’ve still got some quality players,” Head said.
“Stokesy in the first innings set himself really well but ran out of partners.
“We know he’s a huge wicket tomorrow in the scheme of things.
“He played really well tonight (soaking up 40 deliveries to be three not out), letting the ball come to him and his defence is pretty sound.”
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