England 5 for 233 (Root 83, Malan 55*) v Australia
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Joe Root fails to convert a fifty into a hundred. Check. Mark Stoneman makes a solid start that does not become an innings of note. Check. James Vince makes a start before throwing his wicket away. Check. Dawid Malan frustrates the Australians with a fighting innings. Check. It was as if this day was a microcosm of England's batting throughout their whole disappointing tour. At stumps on the first day of the final Test in Sydney, England were 5 for 233, with Malan at the crease on 55.
He was yet to be joined by Moeen Ali, for Jonny Bairstow had ended the day - or more accurately, the evening - by edging Josh Hazlewood behind for 5 from what became the final delivery. The second new ball had proven productive for Australia in the 10 deliveries they had with it. In the previous over, Root had clipped off his pads to Mitchell Marsh at square leg to give Mitchell Starc his first wicket of the match. With those two wickets, England's upper hand disappeared.
It was a disastrous finish for England, who had spent much of the day working themselves into a good position as they sought a consolation victory. Morning rain had delayed the toss and the start by 130 minutes, but Root still had no hesitation in choosing to bat. An early lunch meant play turned into a pair of three-hour sessions, and as 7pm approached, Root and Malan had compiled a partnership that was worth 133. Then came Root's error.
It is not quite fair to say this series has been the tale of two captains, yet the scoring chasm between Root and Steven Smith over the past four Tests has been difficult to ignore. Each has passed fifty on four occasions; Root's highest score is the 83 he made today, while Smith has scored three hundreds, including one double-century. Late on the first day in Sydney, Root went past 50% of Smith's series tally of 604 runs. That rather summed it up.
The toss was one that Smith said he was not unhappy to lose, given the moisture in the surface and cloud overhead, as well as the return to the side of Starc, who had missed the Boxing Day Test due to a bruised heel. It took until the last 10 minutes of the day for Starc to make a breakthrough, but Pat Cummins struck two early blows by removing Stoneman and Vince, both of whom fell after making their way into the 20s.
Stoneman pushed a shortish delivery and edged behind for a run-a-ball 24; it was a delivery he might have either left or played with a cross-bat, but the extra bounce made it hard to negotiate while playing straight. It continued a frustrating series for Stoneman, who only once has failed to reach double figures, but on no occasion has progressed past the fifties, with scores of 53, 27, 18, 36, 56, 3, 15 and now 24.
Similarly, Vince has been unable to have a significant impact on the series at No.3, after impressing with 83 in the first innings of the campaign at the Gabba. Here, Vince toiled for 54 deliveries for his 25 before impatiently slashing at a short and wide delivery and edging behind off Cummins. Stoneman currently has 232 runs for the series at 29.00; Vince has 224 at 28.00, after scores of 83, 2, 2, 15, 25, 55, 17 and 25.
Alastair Cook, fresh from his unbeaten 244 at the MCG, looked in a patient mood at the SCG until on 39 he was lbw to Hazlewood on review. The on-field umpire Joel Wilson had turned down Hazlewood's appeal, but Australia's review showed that by a slim margin the ball had pitched in line with the leg stump and was going on to hit. Those three wickets came in the opening three-hour session up until tea, before Root and Malan settled in for their stand.
Malan had a few shaky moments. He was dropped at slip off Nathan Lyon on 34, and survived a couple of run-out attempts, but importantly he was still there at the end. Malan's success has been one of the few highlights of England's tour, and despite Cook's unbeaten double-hundred in Melbourne, by stumps on day one in Sydney, Malan was their highest run-getter of the series, with only Smith and David Warner above him from either side.
His 160-ball effort included five boundaries, and he must now bat with the lower order to push England to a competitive total. Root had looked the more fluent in their partnership, striking eight boundaries and reaching an 82-ball fifty, but his departure late in the day was a major blow for England. Root's struggle to convert his half-centuries is becoming a concern - of his past 10 fifty-plus scores, only one - against West Indies in Birmingham - has been turned into triple-figures.
Again, Root made a solid contribution for England, but again fell short of a match-defining one. How England bounce back from their late stumbles now looms as the big question.