Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney
January 1, 2007
Greats aim to sign-off in style
Stats highlights of the fifth and final Test between Australia and England at Sydney
Once upon a time.... Will Ricky Ponting be able to tell the story of the whitewash of 2006-07?
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It was way back in the summer of 1920-21 when an Ashes series scoreline last read 5-0. As the teams head to Sydney for yet another dead rubber, Ricky Ponting will be looking to repeat what Warwick Armstrong did to England 86 seasons back, with four comprehensive wins in as many games and three retirees itching to deliver the final blow before signing off. England can take inspiration from their face-saving 225-run win at Sydney in early 2003, thereby avoiding a whitewash. That has been Australia's only blemish at the venue in the last ten years, winning ten and drawing one match during that period. England too have the numbers to back them, as the SCG happens to be their most successful venue in Australia, with 21 wins in 52 Tests.
In a squad full of Ashes newcomers, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard are the only surviving members for England from their victory in 2002-03. Both were instrumental in the win, sharing nine wickets between them. In two Tests, including the Super Test against Australia in 2005, Harmison has eight wickets at under 27 runs apiece.
With all the Australia batsmen in form, England will need to be extra careful against Ricky Ponting, who averages over 84 in 19 innings here, with five centuries and four fifties. In his last five games, his average stands at an impressive 124, boosted by centuries in both innings against South Africa last season. Besides Ponting, there's also Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist to lose sleep over. Hayden's average sits at 53.84 in 16 innings, while Gilchrist's is a neat 60.
Justin Langer, playing in his final Test, also has a mean record against England, with 1612 runs in 20 matches and he would be aiming to keep his average of over 50 intact. Shane Warne needs another seven wickets to finish with 200 Test wickets against England, while Glenn McGrath, also in his last Test hurrah, has 151 wickets against them. Though McGrath has ten five-wicket hauls against England, he is yet to record his first ten-for, and this New Year Test would be his last chance to sign off in style.
Both McGrath and Warne have enjoyed the conditions at Sydney. On the most spinner-friendly Test surface in Australia Warne has 62 wickets in 13 games with two ten-wicket hauls. McGrath needs another six to reach the milestone of 50 wickets at this ground.
In the last ten games, the team batting second has a rather slender advantage over the team batting first, with five wins over four. Australia have won on each occasion in which they batted first.
Batsmen have found conditions easy here at the SCG, with the average runs per wicket over 37 in the last ten Tests. The first and second innings average is spot on at 39.3, but the average dips to 33.6 in the third innings. However, it increases to 37.8 in the fourth, indicating that batting conditions don't necessarily get harder, unlike most venues.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is editorial assistant of Cricinfo
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