Sadly…the end is in sight

So we reach the SCG where the Ashes series ends but there’s still five days to go so no need to be downhearted even though the Ashes are gone and the prospect of a ‘consolation’ victory seems a way off. Australia make one change bringing back Starc for Bird (perhaps Jimmy was right about some of the second string Aussie quicks?) whilst England give a debut to Crane (who’s been on and off the field at every test so far as substitute fielder so he’s used to the atmosphere of the tests) but leave Ali in since Woakes is injured – a recurrence of the side strain from last summer when perhaps he came back to play too soon. He’s looked a bit ‘underdone’ this series so perhaps he was carrying a niggle all series long?

This means England will take 20 wickets with a combination of Broad, Anderson (nearly 1000 test wickets between them), Ali who has lost all form and confidence, Curran who’s played one test, Crane on debut, Root (golden balls) and Malan (rated by Smith as the best spinner in the English side) – sorry can’t see it happening!

As for the start, it’s an overcast day in Sydney and the toss and other ceremonies have been delayed by light rain. I suspect there’s no play before lunch but we shall see.

As suspected no play before lunch due to intermittent rain. Toss eventually held…won by England (4 out of five) and will bat. Forecast for drinks break 2/55.

Drinks were taken at 1/39 Cook 11no Vince 2no. Stoneman went for a run a ball 24 chasing a wider one when there was no need. Australian quicks are back to full strength and in doing so have a richer variety than at Melbourne. Pitch looks good for batting, reasonably dry with a few green patches. I expect to see some deterioration over the five days. Forecast for second drinks 2/81

Second drinks 1/86 Cook 36 Vince 24 – consolidation by England in unspectacular style. Vince is looking ok at #3 just like Stoneman is as opener but both need decent and good scores to underpin their places. Perhaps against NZ and Pakistan these chances will come. Forecast for tea 3/131.

Tea 3/122 Root 16 Malan 16. Australia are back in the game after what was, for them with hindsight a reasonable performance at the start of the three hour session. Another looms with 41 overs remaining today. Two more quick wickets and the tail looms…and given its history are current inexperience, then if England are five or six down for relatively little, then the game is firmly in Australia’s grasp but if these two can score (Malan is the second top scoring English batsman) then the revers could be the case. But which way will it go? Forecast for drinks at half way through the allotted time…4/164.

Drinks taken early due to an injury to Khawaja England 3/160 Root 42 Malan 28. Tight control by Australia bowling over 4 maidens in a row just after tea somewhat becalmed Malan but Root broke the shackles in the end. Slow stuff and consolidation as England start to build before the tail does what it does. Forecast for next drinks break 4/206.

Final drinks break 3/194 Root 65 Malan 39 and 14 overs remain. Root is now in his danger phase…he needs to convert his 50s into hundreds so the next two periods will be key. Malan has dropped anchor. Two chances went begging for Australia- a run out to the wrong end and a very sharp chance to Smith off Malan was dropped. Forecast for close of play 3/236 and would make it England’s day…albeit slightly shorter.

Close 5/233 Root failed to convert (again) being undone by the new ball as was Bairstow. Malan remains resolute but with an out of form Ali and the fragile tail to follow, this looks like an opportunity missed but who knows? This game can throw up a wobbly at any time!

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