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Adelaide a glorious setting for what England hope will be a new beginning

Touchdown in South Australia was probably a relief for England’s cricketers, no doubt glad to see the back of Queensland after their soggy buildup was followed by defeat at the Gabba. Before landing, those with a window seat also got a glorious view of the Adelaide Oval, scene of this week’s second Test.

From above it is hard to miss a ground that is three parts modern mega-stadium to one part grass bank and sits nestled in the parkland north of Adelaide’s city centre. Where once there were sloped terracotta roofs, three giant stands with bulbous white canopies now horseshoe around the outfield like a huge comfy armchair almost ready for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to slump into after a long day terrorising the public.

The revamp was met with near widespread praise upon completion in 2014, which was not a given. Australia may be a country that is always moving forward by way of disposition – see the emu and the kangaroo on the crest of the fabled Baggy Green for more details – but renovating the home stadium of Don Bradman, the Chappell brothers, Jason Gillespie et al risked compromising the ground’s bucolic charm.

Yet the architects managed to pull off the ideal blend of increased capacity (now up to 53,000), spectator comfort and a sense of history; as well as the Bradman Collection in the museum – where would-be Dons can similarly hone techniques with a stump and golf ball – a link with the past has been retained by the hill at the northern end and the famous old scoreboard, built in 1911, will once again tick over this week.

In recent times the Adelaide Oval has also set about creating a new tradition in the shape of the pink-ball Test. Not that everyone agrees. Ever since the first such match in 2015, when the Australia and New Zealand players were paid danger money to give the new concept a go, it has been a source of grumbling among a local press pack that might prefer to transport tastebuds to the Barossa Valley of an evening.

Joe Root plays a shot past a sprawling Cameron Bancroft in the 2017-18 Ashes Test at Adelaide, which Australia won by 120 runs just over four years ago.
Joe Root plays a shot past a sprawling Cameron Bancroft in the 2017-18 Ashes Test at Adelaide, which Australia won by 120 runs just over four years ago. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

But through a combination of alluring salmon skies at dusk, the flare of the pink Kookaburra as it whizzes down under lights, the scope for spectators to pitch up after work and purchase a twilight ticket, and peak viewing hours for the television audience at home, the format has taken hold. Crowds are capped at 35,000 per day this Test but nearly 200,000 spectators passed through the turnstiles over five days four years ago. The fact that Australia have won all five day-night Tests staged in Adelaide has probably helped a bit here too.

A key driver of the revolution was Keith Bradshaw, the former South Australia Cricket Association chief executive who sadly died in November aged 58 after a long battle with myeloma. A popular and progressive administrator, but one who never lacked a sense of history and tradition with this Bradshaw, a Tasmanian, had made the move back in 2011 after five years as secretary of the MCC.

It is fitting that those two worlds come together on Thursday when the newly-forged “Bradshaw Bell” is rung five minutes before the start of play for the first time. This was a tradition introduced during Bradshaw’s time at Lord’s – Ian Botham and Viv Richards were among the first in 2007 – and beginning this new sound in Adelaide this week will be his fiance, Helen Todd, and daughters Juliet Bigg and Eliza Bradshaw.

Out on the field there will be decent representation for South Australia. Travis Head flew home from Brisbane a day early to see his family and will now stride out on to his home ground bursting with confidence after his 152 punished England’s leggy bowlers at the Gabba. Alex Carey, though light on runs with the bat, is also a returning hero in these parts after becoming the first wicketkeeper to pouch eight catches on Test debut.

Australia will be without one of their pink-ball specialists, however, after confirmation on Monday that Josh Hazlewood is officially out of the second Test with a side strain. The expectation now is that Jhye Richardson, a pacy purveyor of outswing, will step up as his replacement, while Usman Khawaja is on standby if David Warner’s rib injury proves too painful to overcome in training.

Certainly the absence of Hazlewood presents an opportunity for England, so to the fact that Steve Smith averages just 31 from five day-night Test matches at the Adelaide Oval. In Brisbane the tourists had a new plan for Smith, with five men stationed out on the leg side but their seamers still pursuing a line on or just outside off stump. When Mark Wood went wide of the crease and found his edge on 12, it worked.

These may be mere crumbs of comfort for a team still licking its wounds after that nine-wicket thrashing in Brisbane. But if they are looking for inspiration, they could do worse than step out onto the Adelaide Oval and take in their surroundings.

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