Khawaja rises and falls, Sydney, day one

Michael Clarke leaves the field

Close: fifth Test, day one, Melbourne
Match score: Australia 134-2 (Hussey 12*)
Session score: Australia 23-2, England win
Session in six words: Clarke and Khawaja go before rain

Usman Khawaja will not forget this day – the day he outscored Bradman, Langer, Hayden, Steve Waugh, Ian Chappell, and Boon on Test debut. But it came to an end in the most forgettable fashion, tricked by Graeme Swann into a fatal sweep on what turned out to be the last ball of the day.

Khawaja looks a talent – anyone who can swivel-pull like a left-handed Ricky Ponting is a man to be wary of. There are technical weaknesses there – he plays around his front pad with an angled bat and gets squared up on the back foot, but he looked instantly at home in Test cricket. Like others in this top-order, concentration and savvy may need more work, he chose exactly the wrong moment to take on Graeme Swann as the rain clouds circled.

A prolonged downpour meant no further play and that Australia closed on 134-4 – Brad Haddin has not got to the crease with more than 156 runs on the board this series, and with promotion to No.6 here that sorry statistic will be extended. For all their inconsistency with the ball it is clear where Australia’s main problems lie.

That was always the danger – a decent start, but then the brittleness of their batting would begin to show. Michael Clarke must take a large bit of the blame, cutting too close to him when the need was for concentration. It was a shot with similarities to Andrew Strauss at Brisbane, and the result was the same – the captain gone, and his team in trouble.

Tim Bresnan was the lucky bowler – he is developing his reputation as a golden arm for England here. Not quite as economical as at Melbourne, but still at under three an over, Bresnan put the squeeze on Australia after tea with Jimmy Anderson. Clarke faced 12 dot balls before the need to score consumed him. Anderson was not at his best as an attacking force but superb as a container. England have learned the art of patience, and it meant they won this final session and the day.

Usman Khawaja yesterday

Tea: fifth Test, day one, Sydney
Match score: Australia 111-2 (Khawaja 26, Clarke 4)
Session score: Australia 56-1, Draw
Session in six words: Young Khawaja makes a confident start

It took Usman Khawaja two balls to register his first Test boundary. He’d got off the mark first ball with a tuck off his hip, before pulling the next through midwicket. Khawaja had a fruitful first few overs –15 runs from his first eight balls in marked contrast to the last Australian batsman to make his debut at No.3, when poor Justin Langer gritted it out to make 20 from 79 balls in 1992-93 against a West Indies attack of Ambrose, Bishop, K Benjamin and Walsh. Although Khawaja took 51 balls to make nis next 11 runs this was not quite the same, but it didn’t matter to his Mummy, a torrent of emotion in the stands at her son’s home ground.

England did not bowl badly at Khawaja and Watson after lunch, they just didn’t bowl well. Still balls were a touch short, still inspiration lacked as Watson left with the restraint of a vicar. Finally they got him fiddling when Bresnan curved one gently away outside the off-stump. Watson had 45, at least he didn’t give it away in the 50s this time. He’s got some work to do, he bats like a batsman, but he’s got to start thinking like one. His side need big hundreds at the top of the order, not pleasant starts.

Michael Clarke’s reception was vocal. Boos? Cheers? Who could tell, they all intermingled into a fearsome racket, but it appeared plenty of people were on their feet. Clarke pushed confidently through the off side first ball. This could be his match – won the toss, batted, in when the ball has lost it’s shine. He didn’t have long to progress before the rain came sniffling down – as those in the open cowered under the stands like rats. There may be a bit of moisture in this pitch after tea, but the atmosphere is clearer than this morning. Even Steven so far, all set up for a big final session.

Lunch: fifth Test, day one, Melbourne
Match score: Australia 55-1 (Watson 19*)
Session score: Australia 55-1, Draw
Session in six words: Hughes falls with lunch in sight

When the first wicket of the morning falls three balls before lunch it’s a massive blow, both to the batting side and the journalists who have to rewrite their copy.

It’s a bigger blow still to Phillip Hughes, who had cussedly stuck out some hostile spells from Chris Tremlett. Five innings for Hughes since he came back into the Australia side in Perth, and this 31 is his highest score.

A fascinating morning session on a pitch that has an old-school tint – think Richie Benaud and 80s TV, Jim Maxwell described it as “green and white”. Jimmy Anderson would say “green and wet” after slipping in his delivery stride as he ran into bowl the second ball of the morning. Anderson appeared to turn his ankle slightly and looked tender thereafter – there are few worse things for a quick than worrying about their delivery stride.

It was left to Chris Tremlett to provide the main threat, jagging it left and right quicker than a tennis umpire’s neck. Tremlett is at home at Test level, although he will have to bowl fuller than he did to day if he is to get more tangible reward for his tremendous line, pace and bounce. Watson and Hughes eschewed risk, took blows on the body and generally mucked in. They had to.

It was a bold shout from Clarke to bat, Andrew Strauss probably would have done the same but might have been grateful that the decision was taken out of his hands. Positivity is not a bad way to go for a new captain, and his opening batters did him well this morning.


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