Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2011

England chip away on rain-hit day


Australia 4 for 134 (Hussey 12*) v England

The hard work of Australia's top order was beginning to unravel at the SCG as both sides sparred for the ascendency on a truncated opening day of the final Ashes Test. The hosts had slipped to 4 for 134 when further rain ended play, with Usman Khawaja falling to the final ball before the weather closed in having made 37 in a promising start to his Test career.

England couldn't quite match the intensity of their opening day in Melbourne, but chipped away once the opening partnership was broken in the final over before lunch when Phil Hughes edged to third slip. Shane Watson went for another unfulfilled innings when he nicked Tim Bresnan and Michael Clarke's first innings as Australia's 43rd Test captain continued his poor run when he cut to gully.

Clarke had been greeted by a heady mixture of boos and cheers, the former in the majority, and for a short while there was a glimpse into Australia's likely future with the captain alongside the new No. 3. Khawaja began his Test career by racing to 15 off eight balls as he rode on the emotion of the occasion before reigning himself in with some solid defence. However, with another shower moments away, he top edged a sweep against Graeme Swann which looped to square leg.

It was clear from the start that Clarke was feeling the nerves of his first real day in the top job. He watched pensively from the dressing room as Australia got off the mark and he may secretly have wished not to have needed to make a decision at the toss. Batting first is usually the way forward in Sydney, but a muggy, overcast morning and a tinge of green on the pitch meant England's quicks weren't disappointed to have first crack at a top order they have largely dominated during the series.

However, whereas they regularly found the edge in Melbourne here the ball beat the bat frequently, especially in the first hour, without getting reward. Chris Tremlett caused the most problems during a probing first spell where he troubled Watson and Hughes with extra bounce.

James Anderson also found swing to have a couple of stifled lbw shouts although he was troubled by his take-off area, almost turning his ankle with his second ball, and also gained a warning for his follow through from Billy Bowden. His first spell ended with figures of 5-0-5-0 and after 12 overs Australia had 17 runs, but the value of not losing early wickets was far greater than what the scoreboard showed.

The determination started to pay off as Hughes tucked into Bresnan's second over with consecutive boundaries then cut Swann's second ball to bring up Australia's fifty. Watson gave a good lesson in leaving on length as Tremlett's deliveries kept sailing over the stumps, but Hughes wasn't equal to the challenge when he pushed outside off and offered a simple chance to third slip.

It meant Khawaja had 40 minutes to ponder his first ball in Tests, but he calmly clipped his opening delivery from Tremlett through the leg side for two then cracked away a bristling pull next ball. He was later given another gift on leg stump which was flicked away and had the skill to play with soft hands so when he twice edged the ball it fell short of second slip.

Either side of a needless stoppage for bad light - the floodlights hadn't been turned on - Khawaja appeared to have plenty of time to play his shots, guiding Tremlett down to third man, and was confident to come onto the front foot in defence. Watson, after hitting his first boundary from his 89th ball, was also starting to find rhythm.

However, with another half-century looming Watson played forward to Bresnan and the ball shaped away a touch to find the edge and was well taken at first slip. He slammed his bat in frustration before dragging himself off the pitch.

Clarke began with a sweet cover drive first ball, but rain then forced an early tea and when play resumed he tried to cut a ball that cramped him for room and gave Anderson a catch at gully. A captain's job is much tougher when he isn't making runs and it has been Clarke's poor return in this series which has clouded his future as the long-term leader.

Mike Hussey's early scoring shots were mainly down to third man as he kept the slips interested on a surface juiced up after being covered. But it wasn't seam or swing that ended Khawaja's two-hour stay when he went to sweep the final ball of Swann's first over back. However, given the problems facing Australia, the first sight of Khawaja in a baggy green was a rare piece of promising news.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on January 4, 2011, 10:58 GMT

    @hyclass; thank you for bringing us English up to date with Hughes. We knew that our bowlers had bounced him around - but I thought that he was dropped for the infamous "tweet" business in the last Ashes - had then had a bust up with Ponting. Hauritz and Hughes clearly not on Pontings christmas list. I don't know what the story is with Aus coaching and selection - but it looks weird and these two good players have not come on in the way that they should have. Also @hyclass; what is your take on Merv Hughes walking off the panel? I'd be very intersted to hear your side of that....

  • Christopher on January 4, 2011, 1:52 GMT

    Yesterday, Khawaja debuted with 37 for australia. He clearly needs more time in first class cricket to develop his game. Like Smith, his game is incomplete. Smith has no recognisable back foot play. He comes forward and stays there. Khawaja has trouble when the ball bounces outside off stump and edged a couple of times. It doesnt help that the entire australian team is under bizarre instructions to let as many balls go as possible. There were momentary glimpses of the authentic batsmen, quickly snuffed out by hours of letting wide balls, half trackers and half volleys pass by. What bowler wouldnt thrive under those circumstances. This team is easily the worst coached i have ever seen and every batsman shows nagging doubt over whether to risk attacking or tow the team line.To batsmen, doubt is fatal. The last time i saw the authentic Phillip Hughes was in NZ when he smashed 86 not out of 75 balls to win the game and was then dropped. Bring back the real Hughes and lets start attacking.

  • Steve on January 4, 2011, 1:52 GMT

    Day 2 session 1 is over and it's looking good for England dismissing Australia for 250 (ish). The match will be decided by how well the England batters can start as it's expected that the pitch will improve before getting 'sporting'! Or to put it another way... how well Australia bowl! Khawaja's start was OK but I still maintain that 30ish is below par for a world class number 3. Do the maths. If the first 6 all average 35 and the next 5 all average 15 (realistic) that's going to get the team 285 - which isn't going to win you many test matches! Biggus' inputs and comments are pretty sound as always and it's good to hear from an Aussie with both feet on the ground! I think there is a twist or two to come yet and maybe the good Johnson will turn out for Australia today? We'll see as it progresses..... COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    HUGE difference in quality of play, between the IND-SA match, and this one, both played on top-class grounds, greentops, in southern summer, rain-hit/overcase / sunny conditions. England's bowlers are nowhere near as nagging and aggressive as Flintoff and Hoggarth used to be, and the present AUS batting vs. the Hayden-Langer standards, looks pathetic.

    Hope to watch some thrilling, evenly-matched games between (still Ponting/Clarke-led) AUS vs. Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe). UDRS has cost Australia the 4-wicket advantage they used to have over visiting teams.

  • Christopher on January 4, 2011, 1:25 GMT

    Phillip Hughes was the youngest australian debutante in 25 years. He arrived there with an enviable batting record that included the youngest player at 19 to score a century in a Pura Cup final, a first season record of over 600 runs at 62 and a double of 151 and 82 not out against Tasmania who have one of the better state attacks. He made a gutsy and fast scoring 75 on debut against Syen and Co.and followed it with twin centuries in the next test(youngest ever to do so), bringing up his maiden hundred with twin sixes. He finished the series with 415 runs at 68. He then returned to his county side and scored 3 consecutive centuries. He was roughed up by Harmison, the same guy that along with Flintoff, roughed up the entire australian side in 2005 and 2009. Nielsen dropped him claiming he exceeded their expectations in Sth Africa, showing it was always their intent to drop him. They butchered his technique and stopped his stroke play.Sack Nielsen.Hughes has my admiration and respect.

  • Richard on January 4, 2011, 0:31 GMT

    @phoenixsteve-Much as I like to see Oz win I mostly just like to watch good cricket and if sometimes that means acknowledging that we are outmatched so be it. I thought Khawaja looked promising but he'll be kicking himself at the way he was dismissed, given that the approaching clouds must have been visible.@Hema_Adhikari-Quantum mechanics and cricket eh? Presumably, like 'Schroedinger's cat', until I sit down if front of my TV and turn it on all outcomes are possible (including Australia winning presumably). I fear that when I do so and the wave function collapses I will find it is indeed an Ashes contest and the cat is dead. Mitchell Johnson's erratic form does have a certain quantum weirdness to it though. I think he'll bowl well in South Africa today.@5wombats-What I've seen of Beer looked ok. If Allan Border can take 11 wickets in a test here against a strong WI line-up anything is possible, except maybe 'viru batting steadily' and 'India bowling really well' in an Ashes test.

  • ashley on January 4, 2011, 0:11 GMT

    If you don't know where Hughes has come from you don't know much about anything. Maybe you should follow cricket a little more or at least look at the records that have got a player to where they are. Hughes has proven himself in first class already as the most talented batsman since bradman. It was a joke he was dropped to begin with. He has been out of form since returning from a disslocated shoulder, is that particularly surprising?

  • David on January 3, 2011, 23:31 GMT

    Khawaja showed enough to see he will be a long term player and its not because of the number of runs but the way he got them. It has to do with the application, shot selection, temperament, technique and his pressence at the crease. Hughes AGAIN out caught on the crease is a direct contrast to Khawaja even though he looked OK until getting out exactly the same way he normally does.

  • Michael on January 3, 2011, 23:07 GMT

    Kwaja indeed was a breath of fresh air but 37 is 37 is 37; it's a decent start and hardly worth much more than a glance on a scorecard. Channel 9 and the media &^%$ me with their agenda driven superlatives of the knock. Watson gets 37 and he didn't go on with it again. Ponting gets 37 and he struggles again. Hussey gets 37 and he is fading from his prolific start to the series. But wait... Kwaja gets 37 and he lights up the SCG.

    As an Australian I have realized that after so many years of domination our turn is up. The past few seasons has made me realize just how good the Dominator's were. As with the Windies of the 70's and 80's, we got used to winning and it doesn't feel right losing.

    But it's okay. England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India being so competitive is great for cricket, great for the spectator. Ashes 2005 breathed such a welcome revival into the contest, I am only disappointed that I can't seem to find a BluRay to replace my DVD of that series.

  • Harvey on January 3, 2011, 23:04 GMT

    Surely Clarke cannot be retained any longer. The selectors faltered again in their selections, it was the prime opportunity to showcase some new talent with the Ashes already gone. It is beyond me how Hilfenhaus keeps getting selected. There must be a back room deal or something. They should have brought in a new young quick like Copeland or Cameron. They need to move to the future before it is too late. I also would not bring Ponting back, he was hanging on by a thread and is choosing a 36 year old again the way forward? Same with Katich. No Pain No Gain, cop some losses and in the long run Australian cricket will be better off.

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