Khawaja and Smith put Australia in control

Swann: Crane debut showed promise (1:25)

Graeme Swann praised Mason Crane's Test debut and defended the 20-year-old wrist-spinner against the Sydney crowd. (1:25)

Australia 2 for 193 (Khawaja 91*, Smith 44*) trail England 346 (Root 83, Malan 62, Cummins 4-80) by 153 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

On a day when Australia chipped slowly away at England's total, in a dead rubber, individual moments and milestones caught the eye more than the overall match progress. There was Steven Smith joining cricket royalty by reaching 6000 Test runs quicker than anyone but Don Bradman and Garry Sobers. There was Usman Khawaja fighting to his highest Test score in more than a year. There was Cameron Bancroft, bowled for a duck, barely clinging to his Test career. And there was Mason Crane, a 20-year-old legspinner, searching in vain for his maiden Test wicket.

The day had started with England at 5 for 233; they added a further 113 for the loss of their last five wickets, via some vigorous tail-wagging and sloppy work from the Australians with the ball and in the field. By the close of proceedings, Australia were 2 for 193 in reply, with Khawaja on 91 and Smith on 44. The Australians had progressed at less than three runs an over, happy to work in a leisurely manner as they reduced the deficit to 153 runs at stumps. With eight wickets in hand, the match was fairly evenly poised.

Khawaja certainly was looking forward to the third morning and an opportunity for his first Test century since November 2016. Last year was a challenging one for Khawaja, who was overlooked for the Tests in India, recalled in Bangladesh, dropped a Test later, restored for the Ashes and has struggled to make the most of his starts since then. Here, he played calmly and assuredly off both front and back foot, notably using his feet to the spinners, and struck seven fours and one six, lofted down the ground off Moeen Ali.

His partnership with Smith was worth 107 runs by stumps. Smith, the leading Test run scorer in the world in 2017, began 2018 in comfortable if not blazing fashion. There was a close call when he edged Crane just short of Joe Root at slip, but otherwise Smith had little trouble. When he pulled a single off Crane to move to 26, Smith joined Sobers in reaching 6000 Test runs in 111 innings, behind only Bradman, who had done so from 68 innings. Given that Bradman and Sobers were both knighted for services to cricket, Smith is in the most elite of company.

Australia's innings had started in disappointing fashion when Bancroft became Stuart Broad's 399th Test victim, bowled in the second over, driving loosely outside off stump. The chasm between Bancroft's bat and pad was so enormous it could have been seen from South Africa by Kagiso Rabada and his colleagues, who will be Australia's next Test opponents. Whether the selectors entrust Bancroft with the opening duties on that tour remains to be seen.

David Warner scored an 89-ball half-century but was prevented from turning it into anything more when James Anderson nibbled one away just enough to kiss the outside edge of Warner's bat on 56. It left Australia on 2 for 86, but by stumps Khawaja and Smith had steadied the innings considerably. England's only wickets had come from pace, but there was turn in the wicket. The debutant Crane was the most costly of England's bowlers, but landed enough good legbreaks to suggest that he has a future.

Crane had been the last man dismissed in England's innings, run out for 4 on the verge of the lunch break. The opening session was a strange mix of excellent fielding from Australia - Smith's diving take of Dawid Malan at slip off Mitchell Starc was brilliant - and woeful mistakes. Pat Cummins grassed a low chance at mid-on off Tom Curran's bat, and Josh Hazlewood dropped the mother of all sitters when Moeen skied one to midwicket in the next over.

The Australians also persisted with their short-pitched attack against Broad, who swung hard and swivelled a couple of pulls for six off Cummins, and made a valuable 31 from 32 deliveries. By the end of Broad's innings, only Adam Gilchrist had struck more career sixes in SCG Tests than the seven Broad has accumulated. Australia might have considered a top-of-off line a more effective ploy; in the end, Broad fell to a top-edged skier off the spin of Lyon.

Cummins did pick up two wickets with short deliveries, when Moeen gloved behind for 30 and Curran fended to short leg having ridden his luck for 39. But he also gave up plenty of runs with his bouncer barrage. The value of England's tail-wagging, only time will tell.