SYDNEY: England skipper Joe Root again missed out on an elusive first century in the series as Australia fought back with two late wickets on the opening day of the fifth Test on Thursday.
Root was out to a superb diving catch by Mitchell Marsh at square leg for 83 in the day’s penultimate over before Jonny Bairstow was caught behind in the final over. Root slumped to his haunches after missing out on a hundred following his fourth half-century of the series. “It was great to get the late reward as a bowling group for our hard toil,” Marsh said. “Two three-hour sessions really took it out of us, certainly in that last hour, it felt pretty long. “So to get those two wickets was great for our confidence and we’ve got a two-over new ball tomorrow, so hopefully we can get stuck into them.”
Root and Malan recovered England’s first innings with a 133-run stand after the tourists had slumped to 95 for three following the loss of Melbourne double-centurion Alastair Cook. Malan lived a charmed life in his half-century, surviving a run out attempt and a dropped Steve Smith catch to provide stoic support for his skipper.
At the close, England were 233 for five with Malan left unbeaten on 55 off 160 balls when Bairstow was caught behind off Josh Hazlewood for five. “It sort of sums up where we’ve been in on this tour, we’ve been on top for so long in games and then make a couple of mistakes and let the Aussies back in,” Malan said. “It’s disappointing, I thought Rooty played fantastically well to get to that position. “Obviously, he was disappointed to get out and to be five down after the hard work we put in today is not ideal.”
Root reached his half-century off 82 balls cover driving Mitchell Marsh for four, but Malan was fortunate not to be run out two balls later. Malan, on 28, cut towards backward point and there was confusion over the run with Root steaming down the pitch and Malan stuttering and then setting off for the non-striker’s end.
But the throw from wicketkeeper Tim Paine was off target and bowler Nathan Lyon was unable to effect the run out with Malan well out of his ground. Malan had another life on 34 when Smith dropped a sharp ankle-high chance at slip off Lyon.
Only last week in Melbourne Smith put down two catches in Alastair Cook’s unbeaten double century. Cook, who carried his bat through the England first innings in the fourth Test for an unbeaten 244, looked on his way to another big score until Hazlewood struck in the 33rd over. Hazlewood’s leg before wicket appeal was turned down on-field, but on review the ball was found to be just pitching in line and Cook was given out for 39 off 104 balls.
It was the third time in the series Cook has fallen lbw and it left him just five runs short of 12,000 career Test runs in his 152nd Test match. Fellow opener Mark Stoneman earlier hit some nice drives before he nicked a rising Pat Cummins delivery to Tim Paine for a run-a-ball 24 in the 10th over. James Vince looked set after 82 minutes at the crease before he shaped for a square cut at a Cummins delivery only to be caught behind for 25 in the 29th over.
Australia have already clinched the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-Test series. England are bidding to break through in Sydney, where they have won twice in the last four Ashes Tests. After a rain delay and an early lunch, play finally got under way at 12.40pm (0140 GMT).