After a dismal performance in the year 2021 in Test Cricket losing all around the world and being hammered in the half-done Ashes in just 11-day and 80-minutes, England were trying their best to start fresh in year 2022. Quite a few scrutinizes were going on captain Joe Root, coach Cris Silverwood who missed this Test due to Covid and selector Ashley Giles. For the home side, Australia; they were having a sweet time in the red ball format.
Both teams arrived in a wet Sydney with different eyes aiming alternate goals.
Day 1: England had a rare decent day with ball in hand on a rain-hit day:
That was probably one of the wet weeks in Sydney in Australian summer. On a rain hit day over a dry SCG surface, Australia winning the toss opted to bat first as they brough in Usman Khawaja to bat in the middle order replacing covid-hit Travis Head. England had decided to rested shoulder injured Ollie Robinson for caged-tiger Stuart Broad. After a steady morning session, return boy Broad for the 13th time found the edge of Warner to the slips; Jimmy Anderson, a proper example of a wine, who was playing in his 169th Test match only behind Sachin Tendulkar (200) too joined the party trapping solid looking opener Marcus Harris behind the stumps.
And for the only time, ICC Test number one ranked batsman, Marnus Labuschagne looked bit uncomfortable in the cage before edging a Mark Wood short delivery to the keeper. Showers did make an early end to the day’s play but England certainly had made a decent start if not the best beginning in the new year. Root too looked bit more attacking with spinner Leach; although the prediction of the rain throughout the week suggested it a drawn Test; we may in for a classic one expecting on the first day that started with Bangladesh making history beating the World Test Champions, New Zealand.
Day 2: Old problems led England to downfall thanks to Khawaja hundred despite Broad 5-fer:
It was another day of Australia’s dominance; the only tiny victory for England was to see their openers negotiating the tough 20-mins period before close of play. But the day again haunted them with injury problems of Ben Stokes and drop catches. They let off a simple catch; not that easy but you would expect those to be grabbed and the reprieved batsman Usman Khawaja notched up another Ashes hundred just when the clock stuck on the Tea time; the whole SCG cheered up loudly with Khawaja’s wife and a beautiful girl clasping wining the whole scene. For the tourists, it was a day Sturt Broad showed why he should be called a Test great. He ran the whole day; bowled with quite patience and bagged 5-wickets; but it wasn’t the best way for him to finish watching Nathan Lyon slapping him for a huge six.
Broad’s interview again spelled out how frustrated England had been with their batting performances, “Honestly, it doesn’t matter what bowlers you would play if you are getting bowled out for 140. That might be a bit brutal but that’s the truth in Test Cricket.” Another very inspiring picture that caught some eyes on arain-hit Sydney was to see how Steve Smith saved his bat from the raindrops; it again painted out how much he loves his batting and definitely the bat. But, all in all. Even though England had all 10-wickets in their bank, they were still 403-runs behind in the first innings; probably if they continued to have the 2021 batting; it won’t take too longer that they would start to calculate the follow-on scores in every occasions.
Day 3: England began being fragile ends with glory:
It was a day England would look post Lunch; before that they were just going into the middle with a bat in hand; the tourists even though started the day on a positive note, was reduced at 36-4 with next 70-deliveries found not a single being scored. Since Tea, two of the modern white ball specialists in Jonny Bairstow & Ben Stokes took command as the duo added 128-runs in just 28-overs; the best thing was the proactiveness they showed in that innings, taking the short ball on, using their feet against Nathan Lyon and at last ensured newly appointed captain Pat Cummins would scratch his head for a while.
Even though, Stokes missed out for a century on 66, Bairstow remained in his bubble as Mark Wood too hit a few to take England beyond the follow-on mark. The last over with so anticipation got the first English man in Jonny Bairstow scoring a 100 in this trip; only the third England player to score a 100 since 2021. The determination and clunky character he gifted was the best result in his performance. England ended the day still being 158-runs behind; Australia still on top if they knocked over the guests with a 100-run lead.
Day 4: Usman Khawaja headlined the day joining an elite list of two hundreds in an Ashes Test:
England with some rash shots from their tailenders offered a healthy of 122-runs to Australia. The hosts even though started with some aggression as one could expect during setting a target but fall down being at 86-4. The next Usman Khawaja-Cameron Green provided them a partnership of 179-runs to solidify their place in the Test. The man who made a return hundred in the second innings, with a pull reached to his second century of the game joining a short list of the players of having two 100s in an Ashes Test. “I am currently not expecting to play the 5th Ashes Test, but I’ll always be ready.”
Green too played a handy knock of 74 to probably cement his place for Hobart. Quite a few fans divided in opinions when captain Pat Cummins declared the innings on the verge of watching spinner Jack Leach, after two horrible Test matches, standing on a chance of a hat-trick. There should be some praise words for sub-keeper Ollie Pope who kept acrobatically both for the spinners and the pacers; on the same day due to the injury of both Bairstow& Butler, England had called for Sam Billings for the last Test. Nonetheless, surprisingly but England openers survived the last 50-mins of tricky period as the host would seek 10-more wickets on the last day in Sydney with foul weather looming. England certainly can draw the game to start the new year 2022 on a fresh not.
Day 5: England churn out a nervy draw, avoids whitewash:
This was all about the last 90-mins of play. Before that, Hameed had another single figure, Crawley outstandingly marked his name for Hobart, Root tried but failed as was Stokes. And in came Jonny Bairstow with 9,10, and Jack Leach. The wicket-keeper tried his best to go to last 30-mins and he too didn’t survive. The over that Pat Cummins bowled to dismiss injured Jos Butler and Mark Wood, the later to the most impressive delivery brought back Australia.
Boland gave his heart out giving nothing to the batsmen and sent back Bairstow. With time ticking on, and the clouds started to gather on the SCG as shadows started to be born and still 2-wickets to get, Pat Cummins threw the ball to Steve Smith instead of Marnus Labuschagne. Just when Michael Vaughan was spelling out how a draw in this game would speak about the temperament and character of the English players, Smith drew the edge of Jack Leach to take them one step closer. As Jimmy Anderson, who has the most number of ducks in the Red-ball format was surviving each delivery in the last Smith over of the day, the fans and the players of both the camps couldn’t watch the match. But Anderson survived but not before knowing that Steve Smith can haunt them with the ball too.
Did Pat Cummins take a bit more time to declare? Leaving you out with the question as both teams will travel to Hobart for the Day-Night affair to end the Ashes.
Australia: 416-8dec (U Khawaja 137, S Smith 67, S Broad 5-101) & 265-5dec (U Khawaja 101*, C Green 74, J Leach 4-84) Draws with England 294 (J Bairstow 113, B Stokes 66, S Boland 4-36) & 270-9 (Z Crawley 77, B Stokes 60, S Boland 3-30).
Man of the Match: Usman Khawaja (137, 101*).