A blistering Mitchell Johnson and Australia’s leadership team have loosened England’s hold on the Ashes to their weakest grasp in four years.
Australia surged to their strongest Ashes position since late in the 2009 series when Johnson blasted through Alistair Cook’s defences last night to complement the twin tons from captain Michael Clarke and his deputy Brad Haddin.
The second Test may still end in a draw given that batting at Adelaide Oval became considerably easier on the second day but there are compelling reasons to suggest Australia have regained the initiative in the battle between the historic rivals.
The teams have had a win and a loss apiece alongside two draws in their past four meetings but there is growing certainty that momentum is firmly in Australia’s favour.
Johnson’s pace and menace are at the top of the list and while the benign surface soon spiked his 150kp/h new ball efforts, it was telling that the England top order were eager to get to the other end where the rambunctious Ryan Harris awaited rather than face the brutal left-armer.
Opener Michael Carberry (20 not out) and the promoted and soon bruised Joe Root (nine not out) survived the tense final hour but England’s bid to build from 1-35 to safety will require either them or other members of the top order to match the Australian duo.
Carberry could have been out from either of the final two deliveries.
Chris Rogers' throw from cover would have found him short of his ground after Root called him through for a quick single, while Johnson’s LBW appeal from the last ball would have been upheld had Australia’s reviewed Marais Erasmus’s not out call.
Clarke’s love affair with Adelaide Oval continued when he produced his sixth century at the ground, a sparkling 148 that put Australia on track to their substantial total of 9-570 declared.
After the grind of the first day, the Australian made merry with Haddin completing his fourth century, a breezy 118, while No.10 Harris thumped a muscular unbeaten 55 that delighted his former home crowd and sapped England’s resolve.
It was Australia’s highest Ashes score since their 6-674 at Cardiff in 2009, also the last time that
spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar operated together against Australia.
Swann (2-151) and Panesar (1-157) surrendered the bulk of the Australian score after the first day when both of them gained enough sharp turn and variable bounce to threaten to have a substantial impact throughout the rest of the match.
Instead, the Adelaide drop-in matched many of its natural predecessors by showing early signs of deterioration before stabilising from the second day onwards.