Ashes diary: Covid looms, England in a spin, but Billings and Mahmood star in Big Bash

·3-min read

Australia are closing in on victory over England in the Second Test at Adelaide and the spectre of Covid is looming large over the series.

Here’s Will Macpherson’s latest Ashes diary…

England in a spin

Ollie Robinson bowling three overs of off-spin in sunglasses was an arresting sight. A penny for the thoughts of some of England’s actual spinners, as Joe Root’s selection as a frontline option left a gaping hole in the attack.

Anyway, England bowling coach Jon Lewis didn’t seem too bothered by it all.

“It wasn’t in the plan,” he admitted, “however he has done it before for Sussex. I’ve seen him do it when I was coaching there, he did it reasonably effectively a couple of times.

“It’s something he did as a kid, starting as a batter and an off-spinner, so it’s not an alien skill to him. It’s something he practices, not often in the nets, but he does occasionally. Another string to his bow and he actually bowled it ok today.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Taking the negatives

It was a fairly fraught day in the Adelaide Oval’s Media Centre, due to two positive tests in two separate broadcast teams. That one was said to have interviewed Dawid Malan on the third evening was an added complication, but masks were worn and a social distance kept.

The BBC’s Test Match Special were among the organisations affected, with a positive test in their camp, meaning they did not broadcast from the ground.

A few individuals were identified as close contacts of the pair, while dozens of others were required to take mandatory PCR tests due to it being their sixth day in South Australia (arrivals from interstate are required to do tests on day one and day six).

Some members of the media dashed to Melbourne and Sydney early, where there is more Covid, but less stringent measures in place. It is all a reminder of the tenuous state of this series, which some insiders believe will do well to make it to the Fifth Test in Hobart – a venue that is looking increasingly odd, given Covid is surging and Tasmania is not yet open.

Players from both camp are extremely bubble weary and it is possible that the series is at risk from more positive tests or any more ramping up of measures.

Broadside

Stuart Broad has revealed the extent of the injury he suffered while batting on the third evening. A nasty Jhye Richardson bumper hit him on the hand, then the grille, leading to a concussion check.

“The delivery in question took my left thumbnail off and then hit the bottom of the grille of my helmet,” he wrote in the Mail On Sunday. Ouch.

The running man

It was Usman Khawaja’s 35th birthday on Saturday and he was rewarded with a bit of sub fielding on Sunday. The crowd enjoyed his presence, singing happy birthday and giving him a big ovation. His response was “The Running Man” dance, much to both parties’ delight.

It’s not all bad news

Another tough day for England in Adelaide, but a good one for the Englishmen playing for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash. Alex Hales got them off to a good start with 35 from 26 balls, then Sam Billings launched five sixes and five fours in his 64 off 27.

That took them to 196 for seven, which was probably enough to guarantee a win, even before Saqib Mahmood took four wickets in just three overs. Thunder, coached by Trevor Bayliss, won by 53 runs.

This was a reminder that while England’s Test team continues to struggle, they do have a host of excellent players filling their boots in white-ball leagues…

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