Ashes: England blow it again as debutants take a hammering
England let the Aussies off the hook at Sydney as Carberry ends the day with a duck
Fifth Test, day one: Australia 326, England 8-1. A new year but the same sorry story for England's cricketers as they yet again squandered a position of strength to hand Australia the initiative on the first day of the fifth Ashes Test, seriously undermining their efforts to avoid a series whitewash Down Under.
The tourists won the toss and elected to field at the Sydney Cricket Ground but, despite having Australia in trouble at 97-5 at one stage, England's familiar failings came back to haunt them in the hour before tea.
A sixth wicket partnership of 128 between Steve Smith and Brad Haddin – the wicketkeeper posting a half-century for the sixth time in the series – allowed the Aussies to compile a decent total of 326, scored at a rate of more than four runs an over, as they go in search of only their third Ashes whitewash.
England made three changes from the side that collapsed to a demoralising defeat at Melbourne last month with Monty Panesar, Joe Root and Tim Bresnan dropped in favour of Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin. The decision to drop youngster Root while retaining ageing opener Michael Carberry was met with widespread astonishment, forcing Alistair Cook to defend the choice. "It was a tough call, but tough calls have to be made," said the England captain. "He's a very young talented young cricketer that will definitely play a lot for England," he said of Root.
Unfortunately for England neither Rankin or Borthwick enjoyed days to remember. The 6ft 8in Irishman Rankin, selected for the pace and bounce he can generate with his right-arm bowling, lasted just eight overs before a hamstring injury forced him off the field. Borthwick, on the other hand, saw his leg-spin hammered to all four corners of the SCG as he finished the day with figures of one for 49 from seven very expensive overs. Steve Smith inflicted most of the damage as the Aussie No5 scored a quickfire 115 including 17 fours and two sixes.
On paper, Borthwick's debut was even worse than that of Simon Kerrigan, who was dismantled by Australia in the final Test of the home series last summer.
On the plus side for the tourists, there was another strong performance from Ben Stokes. Having scored a century at Perth in only his second Test, the 22-year-old Durham all-rounder was the pick of the England bowlers and took six Australian wickets including those of Haddin and skipper Michael Clarke.
Stokes it was who wrapped up the Australian innings, dismissing Harris, Siddle and Smith in an over, which meant England had to survive a tense session against the 95mph pace of Mitchell Johnson. But in keeping with the nature of the tour there was more bad news. Carberry, under intense scrutiny following the omission of Root, lasted just three overs before falling to Johnson for a duck as England closed on 8-1 and knowing that they face more chin music from Johnson on Saturday.