Australia 326 (SPD Smith 115, BJ Haddin 75, SR Watson 43, BA Stokes 6/99, SCJ Broad 2/65) v
England 1/8 (AN Cook 7*, MG Johnson 1/3) Stumps Day 1
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Zimbabwean walk into the SCG….not the start of a bad joke (though this English team has become a bad joke), but the story of the three debutantes being unveiled by the ‘English’ team in the 5th Test.
The Englishman is Scott Borthwick, a 23 year old leg-spinning all-rounder who has just been drafted into the squad after playing grade cricket in Sydney for Northern Districts. Borthwick, born in Sunderland, has played all his first class cricket for North East county team Durham, and played a large role in Durham’s 2013 County Championship win, though largely with the bat as he had a modest season with the ball.
24 year old left hand batsman Gary Ballance was born in Harare, Zimbabwe but has played in England since he was 16. An average of 53 in 67 first class matches including 18 centuries shows he is deserving of a call up. Not too many Sheffield Shield players with that kind of record. He has no doubt been on England’s radar since top scoring against them as a 16 year old in Zimbabwe’s win over England in the 2006 Under 19 World Cup.
Twenty-nine year old Irishman Boyd Rankin is the 3rd Test debutante. The lanky fast bowler previously played 37 One Day Internationals and 15 T20 Internationals for Ireland before quitting his country for a shot at Test cricket with England in late 2012. After playing his first T20 games for England against New Zealand in 2013, Rankin made his ODI debut for his adopted country against, you guessed it, Ireland in Dublin. Despite 112 from Irish captain William Porterfield, the home team were undone by two of their own. Rankin took 4/46, while Eoin Morgan led England to victory with an unbeaten 124. There is much anger in Irish cricket about losing their best players to England. And it wont stop there. With Graeme Swann’s retirement 21 year old left arm orthodox spinner George Dockrell is no doubt bneing watched closely as he builds an impressive career for Ireland and in County cricket for Somerset. Paul Stirling, a hard hitting 23 year old opener, already has 5 centuries in 45 One Day Internationals. The solutions would be to give Ireland some form of Test status, maybe one off home Tests against teams that are about to tour England and longer series both home and away against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who both need more Test matches than currently afforded to them by the major nations. The other way it could happen would be for England to be able to pick Irish players for Test matches if they want but those players would still play ODI and T20 International cricket for Ireland, given that they play in World Cups against England in these formats. Either way this ridiculous situation should not continue, and Ireland, who totally dominate the second tier of world cricket and in 2013 were the champions at that level in all three formats of the game, need some form of higher status. Otherwise why develop these countries?
Irish rant over, Cook won the toss and sent Australia in and at 5/97 just after lunch he had made the right call. But having been in similar situations all series, Brad Haddin played like he has all series, like a man with nothing to lose and enjoying his time back in Test cricket. A horrible 2009 Ashes series in England with bat and especially gloves and I’d dismissed Haddin as an ordinary player. As Matthew Wade made a fluent century in the SCG Test against Sri Lanka 12 months ago, Haddin’s International career was over. When Haddin was dismissed for 75 with Australia 6/226, his International career had never looked better and his team was right back in the contest. Steve Smith had played the support role to that point, quietly but confidently reaching his 50, and upon Haddin’s dismissal upped his scoring rate. An awkward looking stance and defence is countered by drives (both straight and square) and footwork to spin most players would kill for. Starting to rate him, but want to see runs at Cape Town and Johannesburg in February against Steyn, Philander and Morkel. But you can only make them against who you are playing and he has done the job beautifully since his recall for the Indian tour. Last man out for a superb 115 off 154 balls with 17 fours and a six.
Earlier Australia’s top order were ordinary again. Warner looked in great touch but played all around a Broad delivery. Hasn’t been quite the same since his cameo for the Sydney Thunder between the 3rd and 4th Tests. Rogers, obviously seeing them well chopped Stokes onto his stumps from an ambitious pull shot. Clarke got a good one. Watto looked magnificent, playing some crisp drives in his 43 before being LBW in an all too familiar fashion to the bowling of Anderson. While Kallis and Chanderpaul are the players who would be picked to bat for my life, if the innings to save me was being played in a 5th Test dead rubber Watto would be under serious consideration. Especially if it’s a second innings. Look out for him on day 3. Bailey once again looked out of his depth at Test level and barring something special in the second innings won’t be on the plane for the Test series in South Africa.
There have been few positives for the tourists this Summer but Ben Stokes has stamped himself as a player since his debut in Adelaide. He has bowled sharply and aggressively throughout, and got just reward for his efforts with 6/99 today. A century and a five-for for a young player in his first series is a huge effort. England have their all-rounder to build a team around for years to come.
The Poms had 6 overs to bat and lost Carberry in the process, caught by a good catch by Nathan Lyon in leg slip off all places. Carberry’s future Test prospects are fairly similar to GJ Bailey’s. Mitchell Johnson bowled his 3 overs like he has all series- super quick and threatening.
Borthwick bowled like Steve Smith did on debut 3 years ago. And went for 7 an over despite taking his first Test wicket (Johnson). Rankin bowled ok but was unable to finish an over twice. Ballance gets his chance against Johnson, Harris and Siddle tomorrow. Good luck Gary from Harare.