Mike Selvey: Same again but better

As England look to level the Ashes series in Adelaide, Mike Selvey considers the issues facing them ahead of the pink-ball Test...

This, as the malaprop-prone American baseball coach Yogi Berra once said, is like déjà vu all over again.

Here we are but a single Test into the Ashes series and to the dismay of visiting supporters, and the contrasting merriment of Australians, England's tour appears to be unravelling before their eyes like a cricket jumper inadvertently snagged on a dressing room nail, just as it did four years ago.

Given that England had competed well enough for a good part of the first Test - indeed, up to the very point from which the last three Australian first innings wickets, on the back of Steve Smith's genius, overcame a deficit of almost a hundred runs to gain an improbable lead - it was a huge body blow ultimately not just to lose by 10 wickets but by the largest 10-wicket margin ever. In essence, this was akin to Mo Farah trotting along at the rear of the field before sprinting away on the final lap leaving the rest gasping in the wake.

That in itself might be considered a huge setback to England's campaign, given that it is 63 years since a team overcame defeat in the first Test at the Gabba and went on to win. Even then Hutton's team had a typhoon called Tyson about to blow, and there is no such climatic disaster bubbling up in this squad unless Chris Woakes is holding something back.

England though are losing the grip off the field too. In Brisbane they expect to get clobbered in the media, like the old days of being assailed by Mr Blobby: it is ho-hum par for the course.

But the manner in which a disturbingly weird but nonetheless harmless incident involving Jonny Bairstow's forehead and the side of new Australian opener Cameron Bancroft's self-confessed heavy head, in Perth on the day of England's arrival in the country, was milked for all it was worth, first of all on the field, and then relentlessly off it by voracious Australian hacks was ruthless.

Bancroft is now seen as a comic genius (certainly if Smith's uncontrolled mirth at an unusual post-match press conference is any indication) while Bairstow, arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman in international cricket now, has become a figure of fun. They won't let up now: this will dog him for the rest of the tour.

On the back of this, the head coach Trevor Bayliss, and the former captain Andrew Strauss, the ECB's director of England cricket, both of whom must wonder about the professionalism of some of the players, have installed a curfew, which is the sort of thing that children might expect and tough on the diligent squad members. More grist to the Australian mill then.

And of course, still dominating the agenda is Ben Stokes. In the aftermath of the Brisbane loss, it is easy to see how the clamour to bring Stokes back has swollen to a crescendo. The painstaking manner in which the Avon and Somerset police have set about their investigations has seemed to many, who may not understand that they have many other pressing things with which to deal, as ponderous.

Now it seems as if Stokes, and his management, have blindsided his ECB employers by booking a potential playing trip to New Zealand without their knowledge and then obtaining the necessary No Objection Certificate from them, which they were legally obliged to give.

As a professional cricketer, with no cricket to play, it is no surprise that Stokes might want to seek some, and as Australia - Big Bash say - would be a political blunder of a kind at which even Boris Johnson might baulk, and his family live in Christchurch, then the land of the long white cloud doesn't seem such a strange option. It does, too, get him away from the paparazzi parked outside his home.

New Zealand's proximity to Australia, of course, prompted further speculation that it was all part of a strategy, with two and two amounting to five. It has taken the police to correct the arithmetic by announcing that the case has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether charges might be brought. None of this is going to be resolved any time soon it would appear, and any faint hopes there may have been of Stokes' participation in the series might well have dissipated.

All of this is a distraction from the task in hand, which is to try and level the series in the second Test at Adelaide Oval. Given that this is a day-night match, played with the pink ball, it was always earmarked as a game in which England might have their best chance of winning, for this is where the experience and particular skills of their seam attack could pay dividends. Because it has extra layers of lacquer to preserve the colour, the pink ball not only tends to swing more at the outset than its red Kookaburra sibling, but also does so for a longer period.

Sideways movement has always been a strength of the England bowlers and a weakness for Australian batsmen used to hitting firmly through the line of the ball. There is further evidence that the twilight period, when the sun disappears and the floodlights begin to take hold, can be particularly difficult for batting, not just in terms of the movement of the ball but the sighting of it. Both sides would like to be bowling at that time, preferably with a new ball.

Against this, however, the Australian bowling unit is not unskilled at swinging a responsive ball, and at high velocity too: England batting needs to draw on the extreme diligence and self-denial shown by Smith in his innings, and the Alastair Cook of old.

In their first innings in Brisbane, England batted well up to a point but not beyond. Three half centuries and none converted to something of Smith's proportions will not win games. Runs scored is the currency not the manner of their scoring and extravagant dismissals need eradicating.

The batsmen know that they can expect a faster pitch than Brisbane too, and a consequent pounding from the Australian pacemen. They will be invited to hook and may even feel tempted by the short boundaries square of the wicket. In this, they would be misguided: if memory serves they attempted such a shift in tactics during their last Adelaide Test, and came a cropper.

They will also need to overcome the threat posed by Nathan Lyon, a hugely impressive spin bowler now, and one who has become lippy with it. He is every bit a key figure in the attack as Graeme Swann was for England, able to apply pressure and take wickets even when playing a holding role. Having the intention to get after him (something he is actively inviting now he has discovered a voice) is one thing, but doing it another. England's tranche of left handers is not helpful to this cause.

There is tinkering they could undertake: Craig Overton seems likely to replace Jake Ball who had a mediocre game in Brisbane. A gamble with Mason Crane's wrist spin has been suggested but that seems improbable. Maybe the batting order could be tweaked so that the sequence of middle order left-handers is broken.

Ultimately, though, England need the same fundamental strategy as that which they took to the Gabba: bowl tight, bat long, give nothing away but just do it better. Oh, and get Steve Smith out. Simple really.