The Ashes: England made to suffer at Sydney
PUBLISHED: 08:05 06 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:05 06 January 2018
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Outclassed England finished Sydney’s pink Test day red in the face from thankless toil and surely a touch of embarrassment too over a looming 4-0 Ashes endgame.
Their efforts brought a maiden Test wicket for Mason Crane but little else to celebrate as Usman Khawaja’s painstaking, five-and-a-half-hour 171 and Shaun Marsh’s unbeaten 98 helped Australia cruise into a lead of 133 on 479-4.
Day three at the SCG Test is marked by wall-to-wall pink attire, a stipulation which has reached its 10th anniversary and is almost universally observed as funds are raised for the McGrath Foundation cancer charity.
Against that colourful backdrop, Khawaja eventually succumbed to Crane –who thought he had his man more than two hours and 39 runs earlier only for a no-ball overstep to rule out lbw on DRS for the debutant leg-spinner.
He struck instead in his 31st over, and the innings’ 131st, when he had Khawaja stumped, but before the close, an all-Marsh alliance between Shaun and Mitch merely extended England’s suffering.
The tourists managed only two wickets in the day as Khawaja shared stands of 188 with Steve Smith (83) and then 101 with the elder Marsh – whose little brother then weighed in with his half-century from only 64 balls, including six fours and two sixes, en route to 63 not out at stumps.
By tea, England were already in a deeply unenviable position.
They had mustered a solitary success in 60 overs and two full sessions, albeit that of their nemesis Smith.
There was slow turn available but mostly just solid, unrewarded graft for all England’s bowlers.
It was to their credit that they did not wilt to the point of offering easy runs, despite stifling heat under cloudless skies.
Neither, though, did they very often pose a credible threat and on the one occasion they ought to have had Khawaja, in the over which followed Smith’s departure and the last before lunch, Crane shot himself in the foot with his marginal overstep.
It was a close call but controversial in only very few eyes as Crane had nothing behind the line when his front foot landed.
In an uncanny repeat of circumstances which ruled out maiden wickets for Ben Stokes in Adelaide 2013, Tom Curran last week in Melbourne and Mark Wood in between, it was nonetheless cruel on Crane.
His leg-break from round the wicket would have hit the top of middle stump as Khawaja played no shot and therefore won the overturn lbw on DRS.
A rare mistake from Smith had provided England’s first breakthrough in more than 60 overs, when the prolific Australia captain chipped a low caught-and-bowled back to Moeen Ali off a closed face.
Khawaja and Marsh then, however, batted through the middle session with no hint of bother.
Marsh completed his careful, 121-ball 50 with his sixth four just before the break. But almost immediately afterwards, Australia at last lost their mainstay Khawaja as Crane deservedly struck.
The 20-year-old saw the studious left-hander on the charge, so drifted a leg-break wider before it turned back through the gate to have him stumped.
If England thought they had just the breakthrough they needed, however, they were sadly mistaken because Marsh and Marsh were in the mood for increasingly swift consolidation in yet another century partnership.