|Fifth Ashes Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day three of five)|
|England 346 all out (112.3 overs): Root 83, Malan 62, Cummins 4-80|
|Australia 479-4 (157 overs): Khawaja 171, S Marsh 98*, Smith 83|
Australia’s batsmen made England toil on the third day of the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
Usman Khawaja extended his overnight 91 into 171, while Shaun Marsh compiled an unbeaten 98 as England managed only two wickets all day.
Steve Smith missed out on a century, falling for 83, while Mitchell Marsh had hurried to 63 not out when the home side closed on 479-4, a lead of 133.
Joe Root had Shaun Marsh given out caught behind on 22, only for the decision to be overturned, while debutant Mason Crane could have had Khawaja lbw for 132, but the review showed that the leg-spinner had narrowly overstepped for a no-ball.
Crane eventually got his man, turning the ball between Khawaja’s bat and pad for a stumping and his maiden Test wicket, but England’s luckless day with the review system continued when Mitchell Marsh successfully reversed being given out lbw to Tom Curran.
On a scorching, cloudless day, the Sydney Cricket Ground was bathed in the pink of the McGrath Foundation, a breast cancer charity founded by former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath, whose late wife Jane died of the disease.
With temperatures set to get even hotter on Sunday, Australia could well look to bat for another long period, perhaps to a position from where England would have to battle to avoid an innings defeat.
Australia have already secured the Ashes, having won three of the first four Tests.
England averted a second successive whitewash down under by drawing the fourth Test in Melbourne, but their winless record in Australia looks set to extend to 10 matches.
Australia grind on
Whereas England only had two half-centuries to show despite eight of their batsmen passing 20, Australia’s top order remorselessly refused to waste their starts.
It was not always thrilling – the run rate chugged along at little more than two-and-a-half an over until Mitchell Marsh arrived – but it was another torment of an England side that have conceded a total of at least 400 in eight of their past 10 away Tests.
From 193-2, Khawaja played with more freedom on the third day, particularly through the off side. The left-hander reached his sixth Test century, and his first against England, with a cut off Moeen Ali.
Captain Smith, resuming on 44, continued in the unflappable, idiosyncratic manner that has brought him 687 runs in the series.
He seemed certain to join Sir Donald Bradman as the only player to score four hundreds in a single Ashes series for Australia, so it was a surprise when he offered a return catch to Moeen.
After adding 188 with Smith, Khawaja trudged on with the patient Shaun Marsh, who occasionally played smart drives and flicks through mid-wicket in their fourth-wicket partnership of 101.
Another 104 was added by the Marsh brothers as Mitchell belted Moeen for two straight sixes and left-hander Shaun, on 97 at the beginning of the final over, was made to wait to complete his second ton of the series.
Willing England lacking the weapons
This was another, and perhaps final, demonstration of a key difference between the two sides.
England did not bowl badly and their effort levels never dropped but, whereas Australia’s attack carries consistent venom or the ability to force a batsman into a mistake, the tourists are almost impotent when the ball does not move off the pitch.
The slow pace of the surface and the turn it offered caused spinners Crane and Moeen to do the bulk of the work – Moeen was perhaps more tidy than he had been at any point in the series, before Mitchell Marsh got hold of him late in the day.
James Anderson was typically accurate and economical, with Australia happy to absorb the threat of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker.
Stuart Broad did not carry the threat of his new-ball partner, but at least discomforted both Khawaja and Smith with short deliveries.
Curran, in only his second Test, had his lack of pace exposed, though he did find a way on to Mitchell Marsh’s front pad in his penultimate over of the day. The on-field decision was overturned because of an inside edge, with the ball also shown to be missing leg stump.
Crane’s eventful debut continues
Leg-spinner Crane, 20, is the youngest specialist slow bowler to play for England in 90 years.
Already over the first two days he had been an unused nightwatchman, run out in a mix-up with Anderson, then impressive but luckless when he bowled on Friday.
If anything, he did not bowl as well on Saturday, often too short, but he still remained in the action.
An inside edge off Khawaja was a caught-and-bowled opportunity, while a review for leg before came later in the over.
The replay showed he had marginally failed to get a part of his foot behind the line. If it had been a legal delivery and ruled that Khawaja was not playing a stroke, he would have been given out lbw.
Crane, though, returned later to cleverly turn a leg break past the advancing left-hander, with Jonny Bairstow completing an excellent stumping.
‘The desire is still there’ – what they said
England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, speaking to BBC Test Match Special: “I’m going to have to put some aftersun on! It was a tough day. The boys have toiled really hard.
“I think the way Mason and Moeen bowled – the control Moeen had, especially early on, was fantastic. It was good to see him bowl with that. There’s been a load of questions asked but there have never been any doubts in our set-up about Moeen.
“It’s quite laughable sometimes when people question players in our side. It was only a few weeks ago that people were saying Cookie should be dropped, and look how that played out. There’s no question that the effort and desire is there. It’s been a tough trip but the desire is still there.”
Former England batsman Ed Smith on TMS: “I’ve been quite critical of Khawaja this series. There’s a vagueness and disengagement about him when he’s out of form.
“Sometimes he seems to drift through the game, but not so here. He used all the different options against the spin. Instead of just having one strength, he brought all those strengths to the party.”
How’s stat?! – Smith continues to touch greatness
- Steve Smith has batted for 35 hours 38 minutes (2,138 minutes) in the series, the fourth longest time spent at the crease in a series
- Smith is the third batsman to make five scores of 75-plus in an Ashes series
- 11% of Smith’s 6,057 Test runs have come in this series, during which he has made 687
- Moeen Ali’s dismissal of Steve Smith was his first wicket in 66 overs, stretching back to the third Test in Perth