Sydney :Australia stunned England with two late wickets, including that of Joe Root for 83, to leave the tourists wobbling on 233 for five at the end of a the rain-disrupted opening day of the fifth and final Test on Thursday. (Australia vs England, Ashes, 5th Test, Day 1, full cricket score)
A day that started with incessant light rain washing out the first session had looked like ending with a packed Sydney Cricket Ground bathed in summer sunshine and England’s Barmy Army of fans in full triumphant voice.
Root and Dawid Malan had combined for a 133-run partnership to help the tourists to 228 for three when Australia took the new ball with less than half an hour of play remaining.
Mitchell Starc, back after missing the fourth test with a bruised heel, induced Root into a flick to square leg where Mitchell Marsh took a superb catch before Josh Hazlewood removed nightwatchman Jonny Bairstow with the last ball of the day.
Malan, who survived a few scares to notch up his fifth test half century, reached stumps unbeaten on 55.
Despite the Ashes already having been relinquished after the loss of the first three tests in the series, the tourists had been determined to build on their performance in the drawn fourth test and secure a consolation victory.
Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Alastair Cook departed relatively cheaply before tea but Australia’s bowlers were unable to drive home their advantage until the dramatic climax.
Both Root and Malan scored slowly – the captain had six boundaries in his half century and his partner five – and there were chances to dismiss the latter in particular.
Root had just reached the 50 mark when he called for a single off Nathan Lyon only for Malan, who was on 28, to stand his ground and then set off very late.
Marsh fielded the ball but fired it to the striker’s end and Tim Paine’s throw to Lyon caused the spinner to spill the ball allowing Malan to make his ground.
Malan had eked his tally to 34 when he got an edge off to a Lyon delivery that eluded both Paine and captain Steve Smith at first slip.
Cameron Bancroft almost conjured up a sensational run-out from the close field but his throw just missed the mark and Malan again survived.
They were chances that Australia would have rued had the day not ended as well for them as it had started.
Stoneman and Vince had both got starts under brightening skies but they again betrayed their batting frailties to depart for 24 and 25 respectively, both caught behind off Pat Cummins.
Cook made 244 not out in the drawn Melbourne test last week and looked to be creeping assiduously towards another big tally when Hazlewood intervened.
With the former England captain on 39 and just five runs from becoming the sixth batsman to score 12,000 test runs, the big paceman fired down a fullish delivery that rapped the 33-year-old on the front pad.
A loud shout for lbw was turned down by umpire Joel Wilson but Smith reviewed immediately with the TV tracking removing any doubt about the ball pitching outside leg and forcing the decision to be reversed.
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.