Report by Brydon Coverdale
Joe Root fails to convert a fifty into a hundred. Check. Mark Stoneman makes a solid start that does not become an innings of note. Check. James Vince makes a start before throwing his wicket away. Check. Dawid Malan frustrates the Australians with a fighting innings. Check. It was as if this day was a microcosm of England’s batting throughout their whole disappointing tour. At stumps on the first day of the final Test in Sydney, England were 5 for 233, with Malan at the crease on 55.
He was yet to be joined by Moeen Ali, for Jonny Bairstow had ended the day – or more accurately, the evening – by edging Josh Hazlewood behind for 5 from what became the final delivery. The second new ball had proven productive for Australia in the 10 deliveries they had with it. In the previous over, Root had clipped off his pads to Mitchell Marsh at square leg to give Mitchell Starc his first wicket of the match. With those two wickets, England’s upper hand disappeared.
It was a disastrous finish for England, who had spent much of the day working themselves into a good position as they sought a consolation victory. Morning rain had delayed the toss and the start by 130 minutes, but Root still had no hesitation in choosing to bat. An early lunch meant play turned into a pair of three-hour sessions, and as 7pm approached, Root and Malan had compiled a partnership that was worth 133. Then came Root’s error.
It is not quite fair to say this series has been the tale of two captains, yet the scoring chasm between Root and Steven Smith over the past four Tests has been difficult to ignore. Each has passed fifty on four occasions; Root’s highest score is the 83 he made today, while Smith has scored three hundreds, including one double-century. Late on the first day in Sydney, Root went past 50% of Smith’s series tally of 604 runs. That rather summed it up.
Summarized scores: England 5 for 233 (Root 83, Malan 55*) Cummins 2 for 44; Hazlewood 2 for 47; Starc 1 for 63 v Australia