No consultation: How Smith’s captain’s call backfired
AUSTRALIAN captain Steve Smith implemented the definition of a 'captain's call' when he decided to not enforce the follow-on after dinner on day three at Adelaide Oval.
Fast bowler Mitchell Starc revealed after play that Smith made the decision without consulting teammates before Australia laboured to 4-53 at stumps.
The night session was clearly England's and the home team's inability to cope with the swinging ball under lights prompted former Ashes heroes Mark Taylor and Shane Warne to criticise Smith's call.
Given Starc would have bowled in the final session had Smith enforced the follow-on, it could be considered strange that the captain would not even ask his most senior quick how his body was feeling after just 76 overs in the field.
Nevertheless, Smith's call to bat again was backed by Starc. Although the fast bowler also gave the impression that had the captain decided to bowl, he would have also been in favour.
"We didn't tonight," Starc replied when quizzed on whether he and his nine teammates got a say in whether Australia enforced the follow-on or not.
"That's why he's the captain. He makes the decisions. There are pros and cons to both.
"The follow-on is completely up to Smithy. Whether it's about four bowlers or not the decision stays with him and we are all feeling pretty good."
Starc conceded that pink ball Tests carry several more unknowns than the traditional format. Conditions under lights invariably favour the fielding team and to win the game from here the New South Welshman was eager to point out England will have to negotiate four hours of night cricket.
"We know the night session is the toughest time to bat as we saw tonight," he said.
"England only had to do it for 10 overs so far. If they want to go ahead and win this Test match, they are probably going to have to bat through two night sessions. It's great signs for us with the ball if you look at that session we had to face with the bat."
One of the biggest myths in Australian cricket is that Australia has been completely reluctant to enforce the follow-on in Tests ever since VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid made them pay back in 2001.
But in truth Steve Waugh went on to enforce it seven more times during his captaincy career and the Aussies won on each of these occasions.
Ricky Ponting was a more conservative captain and enforced it four times from 13 chances, while Michael Clarke's sample size is even smaller.
It's this conservatism which Taylor questioned on Monday night, while Warne shared his former teammate's sentiment.
No team has chased more than 302 to win a Test in Adelaide (Australia already leads by 268), while Australia proved how difficult running down a total can be in the fourth innings against a pink ball three years ago when they lost seven wickets in pursuit of New Zealand's 187.
Additionally, since 1990 Australia has led by 200 or more runs on the first innings 25 times at home. They have won every single one of these matches.
For these reasons Starc is still super confident Australia can trounce England and go 2-0 up in the Ashes ahead of the WACA Test.
"There is no reason why we can't build a really big lead and then have England on the ropes," he said.
"As I said, you don't look past the fact there are two night sessions to go."