Sydney: Jan 1, 2014
England are struggling to avoid a 5-0 Ashes series whitewash after heavy defeats in all four Tests. They passed up the chance of a nets session at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) two days before the start of the fifth Test.
“I don’t think they’re in a great place, to be perfectly honest,” team vice-captain Haddin told reporters.
“I think you could probably tell a bit of that in their fielding the other day (in the Melbourne Test). I think that’s the first thing to go when you’re struggling a bit.
“The batting and bowling, it’s an individual thing, but I think the team stuff looked like it was breaking a bit the other day.”
England, who led by 116 with 10 wickets in hand after lunch on Saturday’s third day in Melbourne, contributed to their own demise with a second-innings batting collapse followed by two dropped catches by captain Alastair Cook.
Despite their eight-wicket capitulation, the tourists sprang a surprise by not using their scheduled morning nets session.
For half their innings in this series England have failed to post a total greater than 200 and they have yet to pass 400 in the last two Ashes series.
Rookie all-rounder Ben Stokes is the only English batsman to have scored a century in the Australian series and their bowling arsenal has been lacklustre, with star spinner Graeme Swann retiring mid-series.
Young leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, who may make his Test debut for England in Sydney, said the tourists were comfortable with their final Test preparation.
“No reason whatsoever [for not having a net],” Borthwick told reporters. “We just had a nice run around, a bit of catching… we’ll do our skills tomorrow.”
Borthwick could replace Monty Panesar in the England bowling attack, while Zimbabwean-born left-hander Gary Ballance appears set to make his Test debut somewhere in the top order — in all likelihood at the expense of opener Michael Carberry.
Haddin said he was confident Australia can create history by fielding the same team for five consecutive Tests, despite doubtful duo Ryan Harris and Shane Watson not bowling two days out from the Sydney Test.
Should selectors stick with the same eleven, it will be the first time an Australian team has remained unchanged for a five-Test series.
Watson picked up a groin injury while bowling in the Melbourne Test, while Harris’s lingering knee injury has been compounded by a foot complaint.
The pair took part in a light fielding session on Wednesday but none of the Australian fast bowlers, including all-rounder Watson, appeared in the subsequent nets session.
Haddin said the fact that Watson returned to bowl in Melbourne, albeit at a reduced pace, was a good sign and the chances of Harris playing were “pretty high”.
“Harris is doing everything he can to play and the only way he won’t play is if he’s injured — and he’s not injured at the moment,” Haddin said. “I think that dodgy knee of his is feeling good.
“Watson bowled the other day so I can see no reason why he won’t (play and bowl). It just depends on how many overs we need to get out of him.”
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