Joe Root went for 83 © Getty Images
Joe Root went for 83 © Getty Images

Joe Root and Dawid Malan scored fifties on the opening day of the fifth Ashes Test, making full use of a flat track dished out at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Pat Cummins bent his back to produce two wickets on a tough day, while Josh Hazlewood had Alastair Cook trapped LBW when he was a meagre 5 runs away from completing 12,000 Test runs. Root and Malan then frustrated the hosts with top-class batting. Australia, however, made a comeback at the twilight of day’s play, removing two important wickets in 2 overs.

The two-hour delay due to rain frustrated the spectators and players alike. Lucky were we that the dark clouds vanished at noon and the scorching heat eased the groundsmen’s work of drying the outfield.

Root did not mind batting first despite the moisture in the air. Openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman proved the captain’s decision right and scored runs at a brisk rate.

Mitchell Starc, who was rested in the fourth Test due to injury, gave his all to trouble the English batsmen, but the docile nature of the track denied him any wicket in his first spell. Cummins, however, was the pick of the bowler in the afternoon session. He drew the first blood, making Stoneman nick one to Tim Paine. After facing a variety of lines and lengths, Stoneman took a back-of-length delivery by surprise. He went for a run-a-ball 24.

James Vince had a good time in the middle as well. He spanked four delightful boundaries. His stay, for that matter, was ended by a Cummins delivery. Again, an edge flew to the wicketkeeper.

Cook meanwhile was churning out runs with ease. He executed one of the straight-drives that had caught everyone in trace in the fourth Test. He then scythed consecutive fours off Nathan Lyon. Another big innings evidently was on the cards, but Steven Smith was hell-bent on removing the dangerous Cook. He summoned Hazlewood who conjured up a delivery that Cook failed to make contact with. The umpire turned down the appeal which was later overturned during the review. Cook walked back for 39, leaving England at 95 for 3.

Malan joined Root and collected runs comfortably on a drying wicket. Malan, however, was lucky once. Smith, for the third time in the series, dropped a catch. He gave up his stance as Malan danced down the track only to realise that the edge was journeying towards him. It was too late before he again stooped low to grab it. Malan went on to score his fifth half-century in the format, adding 133 runs with Root.

Australia had to take the new ball when it was due. There was nothing whatsoever for the pacers to exploit. Starc bowled full to start with. Getting in a nice position, Root eased it down the ground for a boundary. Starc bowled fuller then, getting an inside edge. Off the third delivery, Starc managed to compel Root to flick it to deep-square leg. To make matters worse for England, Hazlewood removed Jonny Bairstow in the next over.

Brief scores:

England 233 for 5 (Alastair Cook 39, Joe Root 83, Dawid Malan 55*; Mitchell Starc 2 for 47, Pat Cummins 2 for 44) vs Australia

Full scorecard