Ashes 2021-22, Adelaide Test Talking Points: Jhye Richardson's fifer, Steve Smith's redemption and England's batting woes

Smith, who came to lead Australia in absence of Pt Cummins, became the only captain to have won five day/night Test matches.

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Australia. (Photo Source: Cricket.com.au/Twitter)
Sai Kishore
SAI KISHORE

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What is the best way to mark your return to the longest format of the game after a three-year break? If you were to ask this question to Jhye Richardson of Australia, he would say, “pick up a maiden fifer”, because that is what the right-arm pacer did in the second Test against England on Monday.

The 25-year-old got the opportunity to don the baggie green after a rough gap of three years after Josh Hazlewood picked up a niggle in the first Test. And he did not disappoint the selectors at all.

Richarson’s great spell 

Richardson did not have the best of time in the first inning, where despite bowling some tighter lines with the great swing, he was taken to the bleaches by the pair of Root and Malan. He conceded 78 runs in just 19 overs in the first inning at an economy of over four. 

In the second inning, he was very potent, and the wickets did not elude him this time. Richardson removed the opening pair of Hameed and Burns on the fourth day’s evening session. Then on the final day, he broke the critical partnership between Buttler and Woakes by dismissing the latter for the score of 44.

Jos Buttler gifted his wicket to Richardson early in the final day five session. The wicketkeeper batter slid his backfoot onto his stumps to be dismissed hit-wicket. This was soon followed by the last wicket, which came in the form of James Anderson, who failed to put up resistance and soon departed for 2.

English batters falter again

Even when it was a great display of bowling from the Australian bowlers, the English batters yet again failed to put up a fight. 

Their opening batters have failed to contribute at the start of their inning. And this has not been a recent case. This has been the story of English batting throughout this calendar year. 

The only English batter who has continued to perform, irrespective of the situation and condition, is captain Joe Root. He has scored 1630 runs this season and is en route to achieving a significant milestone of scoring most Test runs in a calendar year. The record is currently held by Pakistan’s Muhammad Yusuf, who scored 1788 runs in just 19 innings in 2006.

Joe Root and Malan threaded a vital partnership in the first inning. They added crucial 138 runs for the third wicket to bring England back in the game for the first time. However, the dismissal of Root soon followed by that of Malan crumbled England’s hope of a revival. The remaining six wickets fell for just 72 runs.

The second inning was no different. As Malan and Root failed to get their eyes in, the English batters succumbed to the score of 192. Chris Woakes played a crucial knock of 44 in 97 balls, while Jos Buttler remained the last man standing. The wicketkeeper batter dragged the game towards a draw by playing an inning of 26 runs from 207 balls. 

Buttler’s heroics came to a dramatic end when he accidentally stepped onto his stumps while defending the ball on the back foot. Anderson, who holds the record of most not-outs in Tests (100) couldn’t add one more to his tally and fell prey to Richardson.

Smith’s magnificent comeback to captaincy

After the infamous sandpaper scandal in 2018, Steve Smith and David Warner were banned from playing cricket and removed from their leadership roles. Dire times, however, saw Steve Smith back into the leadership group.

Tim Paine’s stepping down as the captain left a void in the leadership group and a panel of selectors at Cricket Australia decided to reassign Steve Smith a leadership role by making him the vice-captain.

Since it is a 5-match series, everyone knew that Cummins would have to be rested at some point for rotating the bowlers. This meant that Smith would be seen as the captain at some point in the series. But no one had thought that it would happen in the very second match of the series. 

Steve Smith decided to take the opportunity with both his hands and played a magnificent knock of 93 runs in the first inning to take his team’s total to 473. He showed excellent leadership on-field as well by shuffling his bowlers and setting up attacking fields that saw England get bundled for 192 in the second inning. 

With this victory, Steve Smith redeemed himself in the eyes of his fans and the fans of Australian cricket in general. This was evident from the applause he received from the crowd as he walked out to bat in the first inning. 

This victory also saw Smith become the only captain to have won five day/night Test matches.

– Vaibhaw Tiwari