Rollover Brisvegas, and tell the WACA the news. Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann has declared Adelaide Oval under lights to be the fastest pitch in the country, adding further ammunition for a pace attack intent on bouncing England’s middle order and tail into submission opposite the considerable wiles of Nathan Lyon.
The Ashes series leaders will wait until later in the week to decide whether any of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Pat Cummins are in need of rest after the Gabba Test – in which case the post will be filled by Chadd Sayers. Either way, Lehmann said that the uncertainty created by a moving pink ball, ostensibly suited to James Anderson and Stuart Broad, will be counterbalanced by extra zip off the surface that can aid the short-pitched attack telegraphed in Brisbane.
Starc had noted during the first Test that he wanted to bowl at England on a faster surface than the uncharacteristically docile Gabba had been. Lehmann, present in Adelaide for both the South Australia versus New South Wales match, in which Sayers sorely tested Steven Smith and David Warner, and the tour match in which England got acquainted with the Oval’s nocturnal conditions, said that when the sun went down and the floodlights were turned on that is exactly what Adelaide would become.
“It’s a fascinating Test match, there’s a lot of talk about it’ll seam and it’ll swing,” Lehmann said on Tuesday as the teams traveled from Brisbane to Adelaide. “The ball stays pretty good, but you can make runs if you play well as per normal. And it does quicken up at night – probably the fastest wicket around Australia at night, so that’s going to be interesting, how it plays.
“[Bowling short] certainly hasn’t changed from four years ago. It’s a bit different in Australia than England where grounds are smaller and you can’t really get away with it, on bigger grounds you can. So that’s one for us that we see as an advantage. They did it quite a lot to us as well, it’s a ploy a lot of people do now. At the back end when the wicket quickened up and we could go after them a bit harder was helpful. That’s the blueprint, it’s no secret we’re going to attack their middle and lower order like that.
“You’re more comfortable in your preparation [having played day-night Tests before], you know what you have to do to get ready. So the lead-in is a lot more normal for us than other teams having done it twice. This is the third time so we’re pretty comfortable where it sits. In terms of preparation and all that we’ll be fine, it’s just which team adapts the best I suppose.”
Most conspicuously through the stratagems of the touring captain Joe Root, England showed their plans to the Australians at the Gabba, something Lehmann said would be useful for the remainder of the series. “We back-ended the first Test really well, but they played really well in the first innings and we learned a lot about them as a side. Nothing we didn’t already know but it just confirmed a lot of things along the way,” he said. “[We saw] more of their plans, how they want to tackle our group, which was good for us.”
In weighing up whether or not the selectors would rest one of the three Brisbane pacemen, Lehmann pointed out that while their first-innings exertions had been considerable, the swift end of England’s second innings and a day five where they were not needed had already helped in terms of recovery.
“First innings yeah [they bowled a lot of overs] but you cut it back in the second innings, only 70 [overall] and Lyon bowled 20 of those so it wasn’t too bad in terms of where they would be in a normal Test match,” Lehmann said. “We’ll just wait and see how we go at training over the next couple of days, if they get through then I think we’d be very similar, but we’ll have to wait and see the wicket. It’s just how they’ve recovered, as long as they get through main day [Thursday] they’re all good.”
Equally valuable was how effectively Lyon was able to not only restrict the England run rate but also threaten consistently for wickets, to the extent that Lehmann even offered a conditional comparison to the role once played by the usually incomparable Shane Warne. At the same time he noted how much Lyon had grown since this time last year, when he came close to being dropped from the team at the end of five consecutive losses.
“He kept us in the game day one, he was fantastic. He’s just grown with confidence and success breeds that,” Lehman said. “For him he’s actually come out of his shell a lot as well, he wants the ball day in, day out, a bit like Warney did when he played. He’s not as confident as Warney was, but he’s just really starting to lead and help the bowlers out, which is great.
“We talked [last year] about how he needed to perform but that was like everyone. When you get to that stage everyone needed to perform, everyone was put on notice. The pleasing thing is that he’s bounced back from that, and from that moment on he’s really led the attack. That was a low part, we changed the side around and made it a youth policy if you like from a [Board] directive, so for us he’s done really well.
“He obviously had to change a few things when he two’d and fro’d, but he didn’t need to change much in Australia, because you need to the bounce. It was more when he went away from Australia to the subcontinent he changed a few things, he did that and had success. So he started to believe he could change when he needs to, which is important.”
Nevertheless, Lehmann said the Australian selectors were still on the lookout for an allrounder of quality to ease the load on the rest of the attack while also making substantial middle order runs. He was happy to hear that Mitchell Marsh is soon to resume competitive bowling after shoulder surgery, while Marcus Stoinis is also thought to be in calculations.
“You’d always like one,” Lehmann said. “At the moment some of the allrounders aren’t knocking down the door like they should be. If you look at the past, when we had Shane Warne bowling at one end, you didn’t have an allrounder but you had Steve and Mark Waugh who took  Test wickets, so there’s an allrounder in itself. They’re just handy when you have that long second innings more so than not, and if you get an injury during the game. At the moment it’s ok, but you certainly look at it.”