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Friday, January 03, 2014

More of the same as England put Australia on ropes before Haddin & Smith counterpunch: T5D1

England 1/8 (6ov) trail Australia 326 (76ov, Smith 115/154b/1x6 17x4, Haddin 75/90b/13x4, Watson 43/59b/7x4, Stokes 19.5-1-99-6) by 318 runs; T5/5 D1/5 at SCG. England won toss and sent Australia in. Australia unchanged (for 5th consecutive
Test). England brought in Ballance, Borrhwick and Rankin for Bresnan, Panesar and Root.

England won the first session (4/94)and a bit ((5/97) convincingly, as they had to if they weren't to have even more egg on their collective face after Alistair Cook won the toss (his first of this series) and sent Australia in. 

But thereafter Brad Haddin & Steve Smith reverted to type, kept to the script of the previous Tests, and swept England (Ben Stokes excepted) aside to post a strong recovery. Which may prove, depending on how the bowlers bowl,the batters bat and the wicket plays, to be a matchwinning one.

The England XI, with three debutants, looked at best experimental, at worst ramshackle. Joe Root, after being used as the gap plugger in the first four Tests  might have felt miffed at being omitted ( and even more so at have to spend so much time sub fielding). Scott Borthwick did take an expensive wicket and Gary Ballance fumbled in the field, so they have points to prove...

As for Australia, Haddin, yet again, and Smith turned the Test around by adding 128 for the 6th wicket.
Haddin played, as he's done throughout the series, with judicious aggression. This was not surprising. Smith's innings - at least the first part, until he'd established himself at the crease - was, after his uneven performances during his Test career. But he showed how much he's matured, not so much by eliminating big hitting from his stroke repertoire as by intelligent shot selection (and brutal execution).

 England were disadvantaged by an injury to Rankin who broke down twice (who of the support staff gave him the green light both before the match and when he returned to the field?) , they don't have frontline spinner and there are, despite Monty Panesar's omission, still a sluggard or two in the field.

All this points to another Australia progression towards a fifth consecutive victory. It doesn't have to be like this, yet it's hard to see England pulling themselves together enough to resist Australia's bowling (& fielding) pressure.

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