Feeling groovy: Josh Hazlewood, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England captain Joe Root on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS
Feeling groovy: Josh Hazlewood, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England captain Joe Root on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS

Adelaide — Australia captain Steve Smith admits he took a sleeping pill as he dealt with a bout of nerves on the eve of the final day of the second Ashes Test after his decision not to enforce the follow-on had given England a sniff of victory.

It all worked out in the end with Australia cantering to a 120-run victory to take a 2-0 lead in the series on Wednesday but Smith conceded he might have had a sleepless night if he had not had a bit of pharmaceutical assistance.

"I had to have a sleeping pill last night. It has been a pretty tough 24 hours if I’m being honest," he said.

"It’s all part of being captain of your country. You have to make difficult decisions and sometimes you’re going to make the wrong decision.

Steve Smith. Picture: REUTERS
Steve Smith. Picture: REUTERS

"I’ll think back and reflect over the next day or so and think what I could have perhaps done differently and could have done better, and areas that I can continue to improve in my leadership."

Only captain of SA Dudley Nourse against Australia in 1950 had previously lost a Test after failing to enforce the follow-on, and Smith could have joined him if England had managed 178 runs on Wednesday.

Smith said he was still undecided whether it was a good decision or not but that he had expected Australia to back it up by batting a bit better than they did by making just 138 runs in their second innings.

"I guess my rationale was that we’re 215 runs in front of the game, if we bat reasonably well then we should be getting up over 400," he said.

"All we needed is one good partnership and the game is dead and buried. We didn’t get that partnership.

"Over the last day or so I have had a few different thoughts and I’ve read a lot of things but in the end we won the game so it’s all irrelevant.

"We know it’s a long summer and I think the bowlers we’ve got are very valuable," he said.

"It’s part of an Ashes series, it’s long. And if we can tire their bowlers early in the summer it can make a big difference at the back end."

At the same time a defiant Joe Root insisted the series was by no means over.

England, swept 5-0 on their last visit to Australia, must now win at least two of the remaining matches in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as draw the other, to retain the urn they won with a 3-2 triumph on home soil in 2015.

Despite England’s extremely poor record in Perth, Root thought the fight the tourists put up on the third and fourth days in Adelaide meant the series was very much alive.

"I’d strongly disagree," Root said when asked what he would say to those who believed
England were heading for another whitewash.

"The way we responded with ball and bat in the second innings was outstanding [and] proved to everyone we are still massively in the series, it’s as simple as that.

"We’ve shown throughout the two games in periods we can outperform Australia, just not over five days, and that’s going to be our challenge.

"If we can get that right, and perform to our ability for longer periods of time, we’ll win games. Simple as that."


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