Despite having lost the Ashes already and trailing 3-0 in the series so far, England showed fight and grit taking late wickets on day one of the Fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.
In what has become an unfortunate feature of Test cricket in Sydney over the last decade, rain again continued to plague the day’s play.
Australian captain Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat on a green SCG wicket, a pleasant variation to the traditional SCG ‘dustbowl’ that has become customary to an Australian summer.
England made just the one change from their previous lineup, with Ollie Robinson making way for veteran seamer Stuart Broad, whilst Australia brought in Queenslander Usman Khawaja for Travis Head (COVID-19).
After a 30-minute delay, play only lasted 4.3 overs before the heavens opened and rain came down again, forcing the players to leave the field.
Despite the stop-start nature of the morning, Australian openers David Warner and Marcus Harris began the day strongly, punishing anything short or overpitched from the English fast bowling cartel.
However, as Broad and Warner renewed hostilities, their fierce rivalry continued. Broad removed Warner for the thirteenth time in Test cricket, luring Warner into a false shot which saw him caught at second slip.
Harris and Marnus Labuschagne put on a 60-run stand and Australia was well on top at 1/111, controlling the game and ticking the runs over.
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Given the wet conditions, the ball was changed, and this seemed to give the English an extra spring to their step.
“I think it does make a difference, because when you get a different ball, it does change things slightly,” fast bowler Mark Wood said after play.
“The old ball, we didn’t feel was moving laterally that much. I was fielding at square leg to Jimmy [Anderson] and I saw him nip a few to Steve Smith, so I thought maybe the new ball had a bit more of a pronounced seam,” he said.
“We also had to capitalise on that break in play, which I thought Jimmy did really well.”
Anderson got the breakthrough when he dismissed Harris for 38 runs and this sparked a second wicket, with Labuschagne removed shortly after for 28 runs by Wood himself.
England’s selectors haven’t quite been able to find the right combinations throughout the series, but the paceman Wood offers something that none of the other quicks do.
His raw pace and bounce have troubled the Australian batters throughout the series, and it is now twice that he has removed the number 1 ICC-ranked batter in Labuschagne.
Wood spoke about England’s fightback late in the day at his press conference.
“To get a couple of quick wickets at the end to change the perspective of the game was a big deal,” Wood said.
“If I had come in this room at 1/100, you’re probably thinking, have England bowled that well? But because we managed to get a couple of wickets at the end, it has changed the whole perception of the day.”
Wood was also very optimistic about tomorrow, especially if England can get off to a good start.
“Tomorrow morning is a huge part of the game, if we can nail down the start like we finished tonight, then we can put Australia under pressure,” he said.
“A couple of wickets tomorrow, especially if we can get Steve Smith early, that will change the game again.”
Australia will resume at 3/126 tomorrow, with Smith unbeaten on six runs and Usman Khawaja four not out.
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