The final Test of the 2017-18 Ashes got underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground after more than two hours of delay due to a wet outfield at the start of play.
Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat first and by the time stumps were called on day one, the tourists were stationed at 233-5.
After another eventful day at the Ashes, we look at the good and the bad from Sydney.
MALAN DIGS IN ONCE AGAIN FOR ENGLAND
Having registered a century and two fifties in his debut Ashes series prior to Thursday, Malan has been one of the few positives for England in an otherwise shambles of a tour. The 30-year-old southpaw has shown impressive concentration and fortitude in his gritty displays in the series.
At Sydney, the Middlesex-man was once again in his elements as he frustrated the Aussie bowlers with a dogged unbeaten 55 off 160 deliveries. He was given a reprieve when batting on 34 after Steve Smith dropped him at first slip off the bowling of Nathan Lyon but that was all the luck he needed to forge another solid innings.
Malan once again reinstated himself as the highest run-getter for England in the series, a statistic which tells you all you need to know about his impact.
HAZLEWOOD KEEPS UP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN
Before the start of the series, England’s batsmen would have earmarked Mitchell Starc as their greatest threat and rightly so. Australia’s pace attack is much more than Starc’s ferocity and lethalness though.
In Hazlewood, they have a pacer who will constantly nag away at the batsmen by hitting the right lengths and then let the late movement do the talking. He picked up two crucial wickets on Thursday to join Starc as the highest wicket-taker in the series with 20 scalps.
The right-armer had Alastair Cook pinned on the crease with an in-swinger to end the England opener’s resistance. He then returned in the final over of the day with the new ball to remove Jonny Bairstow with a peach of an out-swinger. That wicket on the final delivery has turned the tables in Australia’s favour after England had done well for the majority of the day.
ROOT’S CONVERSION WOES CONTINUE TO HAUNT HIM
The England skipper’s awful conversion rate compared to the likes of Smith and Virat Kohli has been the talk throughout the Australian summer. Three times in the series has the right-hander crossed the 50-run mark but he has failed to convert a single one into a three-figure innings.
At Sydney, Root was once again looking his fluent best as he raced to 50 from just 82 balls but once again, he fell before reaching the 100-run mark as Mitchell Marsh grabbed a great catch at square-leg towards the end of play.
His dismissal for 83 runs means that Root has only converted one of his last 10 fifty plus scores into a century, a stat which really highlights the difference between him and Smith.
To further compound the skipper’s woes, the decision to not send a night-watchman in instead of Jonny Bairstow, who was quickly dismissed, has come back to bite the tourists real hard. Indeed, England went from a position of strength to one where it is the hosts who hold the edge.
JAMES VINCE’S AND MARK STONEMAN’S FAILURE TO CONTRIBUTE BIG
While Root’s struggles to convert have been highlighted to a large degree due to his standing as the one of the best batsmen in the world currently, England’s Ashes debutants in James Vince and Mark Stoneman have had troubles of their own in scoring big.
Both batsmen have had relatively good starts throughout the series but have thrown it away before turning those knocks into something substantial.
After running away to 24 runs off just 23 deliveries, Stoneman played at a shorter-delivery from Pat Cummins he could very well have left alone and was caught-behind by Tim Paine. Vince fell to the same bowler after pushing his way to 25 but his dismissal was uglier than Stoneman’s.
He chased at a short and wide delivery outside off but could only manage a thick edge to Paine, throwing away another start. Both batsmen have averaged between 25-30 in this series, a stat which underlines their ineffectiveness when it comes to playing the long innings.
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