Steve Smith’s third test century and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s half century sparked a strong comeback for Australia after a top order collapse on day one of the fifth Ashes test at the Sydney Cricket ground on Friday.
Smith’s near-flawless 115 and a 128-run partnership with Haddin (75) took Australia to 326 all out after the hosts had slumped to 97-5 following lunch, swinging the match heavily back into Australia’s favor as it seeks a 5-0 series sweep over England.
“I think we’ve had a good day. When you get sent in and get 326, you’d take that and to have them one for overnight, as well, we’re in a good position and hopefully we can start well with the ball and take a few wickets.”
Ben Stokes took 6-99, including three wickets in the final over of the Australian innings, to try to give England some much needed momentum heading into its first innings.
But Mitchell Johnson struck early to remove Michael Carberry for a duck to leave England at 8-1 at stumps. Johnson (1-3) had Carberry spectacularly caught at leg slip by Nathan Lyon after fending a short ball off his ribs in the fourth over for his 32nd wicket of the series.
England captain Alastair Cook was unbeaten on 7 with nightwatchman James Anderson 1 not out at the end of play.
Smith’s second century in three tests came off 142 balls and included 16 boundaries and a six over mid-wicket off Borthwick to move to 99, followed by a four in the same over to reach the milestone to the delight of a boisterous hometown crowd of 45,352.
“It’s my favorite place to play so I’m absolutely delighted to have got a hundred out here in tough circumstances and get the team in a good position,” said Smith, who has made all three of his test centuries against England.
For the third time this series, Haddin played a key role in rescuing Australia’s innings, scoring his sixth half century of the Australian summer as part of the 128-run stand with Smith to put the hosts in good position to achieve a whitewash in the series.
“He’s been absolutely outstanding,” Smith said. “Being in tough circumstances he tries to come in and tries to switch the momentum of the game and he’s done it on numerous occasions in this series and credit to him, he’s played beautifully and to be able to bat with him today and form another partnership was great for the team.”
Anderson (1-67) thought he had caught the edge of Haddin when on 9, but TV umpire Tony Hill turned down Cook’s referral after ruling the ball had hit both pads and not the bat.
Stokes finally ended England’s pain when Haddin mistimed a drive and edged to Cook at first slip for his third wicket of the innings.
“I think it’s just the way he comes out and plays his natural game straight away whatever the situation is,” Stokes said of Haddin. “Quite a lot’s gone his way but fair play to him, he’s played his natural game and took every chance he’s had.”
England made three changes to its starting lineup for the fifth test with Scott Borthwick, Boyd Rankin and Gary Ballance all making their test debuts as the tourists attempted to avoid a repeat of the humiliating 5-0 Australian sweep of the 2006-07 Ashes series.
Australia made no changes to the XI that convincingly won the first four tests and regained the Ashes, becoming just the fourth team to keep the same lineup in each match of a five-test series. Only England against Australia in 1884-85, South Africa against England in 1905-06 and West Indies against Australia in 1991 had previously achieved the feat.
Cook won his first toss of the series and sent Australia in to bat on a green-tinged SCG pitch and was rewarded with four wickets in the opening session, with Stokes taking two and Anderson and Stuart Broad one apiece.
The afternoon proved far less successful for England, however, as debutant spinner Borthwick (1-49) was given a harsh introduction to test cricket, with his three overs going for 21 runs before he was taken out of the attack.
Borthwick the first England leg spinner to play in a test match since Ian Salisbury against Pakistan in 2000 returned late in the day and captured Johnson caught by substitute fielder Joe Root on the boundary for 12 for his first test wicket.
England’s other debutant bowler, Rankin, fared little better when he pulled up in his ninth over clutching his right hamstring and left the field. He returned in the final session but could only bowl one ball before limping off the pitch.
“He’s fine,” Stokes said.” It was just a bit of cramp, which is normal in Australian heat, so I think he’ll be good to go in the next bowling innings.”