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.
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.
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.
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.
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