Mason Crane's baptism of fire and other talking points as Australia sit on verge of 4-0 Ashes triumph

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It has been a testing England debut for Mason Crane.

A 4-0 thrashing looms large for England in the Ashes series Down Under after a long and gruelling fourth day’s play at Sydney which was completely dominated by the hosts.

Australia were six wickets away from a victory in the final Test after having declared their first innings at 649-7.  Having given up a 303-run lead in the first innings, England were 93-4 when stumps was called on Sunday.

With the curtains set to come down on the Ashes 2017-18 on Monday, we look at the key talking points of day four.

MARSH BROTHERS MAKE HISTORY WITH TWIN TONS

The Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, have repaid the faith the Australian selectors have shown by their inclusion in the Ashes squad. Their selections had been the topic of much debate at the start of the series but will now go down as a masterstroke as we come to the end.

On Sunday, Shaun registered his sixth Test ton in the very first over of the day with a crisp cover-drive off Moeen Ali. The brotherly love would be very much evident later when younger sibling Mitchell would reach his second three-figure score in the series and in his career. The brothers’ celebration in the midst of completing the run might have given Steve Smith some anxious moments in the dressing room but it was a moment of vindication for the Marshes who have divided opinions ever since making their debuts.

The siblings became the third Australian brothers to score a century each in the same Test innings after the Chappells and the Waughs, writing themselves into trivia books to come in the future.

The Marsh brothers have made critics eat their words.

The Marsh brothers have made critics eat their words.

CRANE’S BAPTISM OF FIRE

The 20-year-old leg-spinner had become the youngest specialist spinner to play for England in over 90 years at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he was handed over his maiden Test cap on Thursday.

He had an eventful third day where he thought he had picked up his maiden Test wicket when he had Usman Khawaja wrapped on the pads. Initially adjudged not out, Joe Root reviewed that decision only for replays to show that Crane had just marginally overstepped. Ball-tracking showed the leg-spinner would have got his man but just like Craig Overton and Ben Stokes, Crane joined a list of England debutants who have missed out on their first Test dismissal due to a no-ball.

Ultimately, Crane finished with figures of 1-193, the worst returns by an Englishman on Test debut and the fifth most expensive of all time. He however, can take comfort in the fact that Shane Warne, the greatest leg-spinner that ever has been, finished with figures of 1-150 in his first Test outing.

Crane now holds the fifth worst returns for a bowler on Test debut.

Crane now holds the fifth worst returns for a bowler on Test debut.

STONEMAN AND VINCE FAIL AGAIN

Mark Stoneman and James Vince have had a fairly disappointing debut Ashes series after having started with much promise. The England opener and the number three batsman have failed to convert most of their starts in the five Tests into big scores with only three fifties to show between them.

Both hand the chance to make some amends in their final innings of the tour but it turned out to be much of the same. Stoneman was lbw for a duck to Mitchell Starc while Vince was caught at slip for 18 off the bowling of Pat Cummins.

That both the batsmen end the series with averages between 25 and 30 tells you all you need to know about their middling tour. Their failure to contribute big has meant that the burden of scoring runs has only increased on England’s other batsmen. When England’s selectors sit down to perform an autopsy of the largely shambolic tour, Stoneman’s and Vince’s spot in the squad will be one of the first to be questioned.

Stoneman's dismal tour was complete with a duck in his final innings.

Stoneman’s dismal tour was complete with a duck in his final innings.

ROOT’S LAST CHANCE TO MAKE A MARK

It has been a tour to forget for the England skipper in his maiden Ashes series as leader of the pack. While his side have been completely blown away by the Aussies, Root has struggled to put down his marker individually too. With four scores of fifty plus but no century, it has largely been a lack of conversion which has earned Root a massive wave of criticism while his opposite counterpart Smith has landed one big score after another as if it was going out of fashion.

The 27-year-old was resolute on Sunday with his unbeaten 42 giving England some hope of saving the Test after being reduced to 2-15 with half-an-hour of their final innings. With an entire day’s play still to go, Root and the rest of England’s batsmen have it all to do to even dream about salvaging a draw.

However, it the skipper can register his first ton of the series and guide the tourists to safety, he can exercise some of his demons. It will take a Herculean effort from Root on Monday but once again, the gauntlet has been laid down and it is up to the right-hander to pick it up.

Root has the chance to salvage some pride on Monday.

Root has the chance to salvage some pride on Monday.

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Cheteshwar Pujara says South Africa pace battery is one of the best he's faced

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Pujara believes the Proteas pace quartet is one of the best he has ever faced.

India’ premier Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara believes the current South Africa pace-bowling attack is one of the best he has ever faced in his career.

The right-handed batsman was dismissed for 26 runs in the visitors’ first innings in the opening Test between the two sides at Newlands in Cape Town.

Pujara fell to Vernon Philander on the second day as India were bowled out for 209 in reply to South Africa’s first innings total of 286.

With Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel making up the rest of the Proteas pace-attack, Pujara said what everyone was thinking by calling it one of the best he has come across.

“This is one of the best bowling attacks I’ve faced. You know that is their strength and you need to know how to counter-attack,” he said on Saturday.

Pujara thinks India are capable of chasing down 350 in the final innings.

Pujara thinks India are capable of chasing down 350 in the final innings.

The hosts were batting on 65-2 at the end of the third day’s play, an overall lead of 142 and the Indian batsman believes his side can chase down 350 if it came down to it in their final innings.

“Overall, I think we played well today and we are very much in the game. We got two wickets today and if we bowl well tomorrow, and if we are chasing somewhere around 350, I think, we are very much in the game,” Pujara stated.

With the hosts evidently on the front foot after the opening two days, Pujara and team India were handed some respite on Sunday as heavy rain and a wet outfield delayed the start of the third day at Newlands.

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Ashes: Marsh brothers' tons leave Cooked England lurching to defeat

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Nathan Lyon was spinning Australia toward an emphatic victory in the final Ashes Test as beleaguered England unravelled on a torrid day in Sydney on Sunday.

The Australians amassed a massive 303-run innings lead in blistering heat and then reduced the battle-weary tourists to 93 for four at the close with a day to play.

Compounding England’s woes was a finger injury for skipper Joe Root, his team’s last major hope of staving off a 4-0 series rout on Monday’s final day of the Test.

Root was unbeaten on 42 at the close with Jonny Bairstow not out 17.

Australia called a halt to their epic first innings at 649 for seven, and soon had England in trouble after the tourists had been cooked in the field for more than two draining days.

Mark Stoneman was leg before wicket to Mitchell Starc for a duck and lost a review in the process, and next ball Alastair Cook was put down at first slip by Shaun Marsh off Josh Hazlewood for five.

But Cook’s reprieve did not last long and he was bowled for 10 when a sharp Lyon turner hit the top of off-stump in the off-spinner’s first over.

Cook, who became during his innings only the sixth batsman to score 12,000 Test runs, finished the series with 376 runs at 47.

James Vince survived a caught behind off Lyon on review on 15, but three runs later edged Pat Cummins to Steve Smith at slip.

TON-UP BROTHERS

Dawid Malan followed when Lyon trapped him leg before wicket for five.

Shaun and Mitchell Marsh earlier became the third set of brothers to score centuries in the same innings for Australia.

The Marsh boys joined Greg and Ian Chappell and Steve and Mark Waugh to score brotherly centuries for Australia, while it was the eighth time overall it had happened in Test cricket.

The Chappells were the first Australian brothers to notch centuries in the same innings at The Oval in 1972 with the Waughs the last to do it against England, also at The Oval, in 2001.

Mitchell Marsh almost spoiled his century in all the excitement as he embraced his brother mid-pitch before he had completed the second run scrambling back to his crease to avoid being run out.

Mitchell Marsh was bowled next ball by Tom Curran for 101 off 141 balls with 15 fours and two sixes. The century came after his 181 in the third Test in Perth.

He was the third centurion of the massive Australian first innings total, following Usman Khawaja’s 171 on Saturday.

Shaun Marsh was eventually dismissed after lunch, run out for 156 by Stoneman’s direct throw from the covers.

He batted for 403 minutes and faced 291 balls for his second century of the series and his sixth in 28 Tests.
Starc slogged Moeen Ali for six and was out the next ball finding Vince at long on for 11.

Tim Paine (38) and Pat Cummins (24) were at the crease when Steve Smith called them in about an hour before tea.

Big-hearted paceman James Anderson bowled with great economy in the stifling conditions as temperatures hit 42°Celsius, taking one for 56 off 34 overs.

Spinners Ali and debutant Mason Crane conceded a combined 363 runs in taking three wickets between them.

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