Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith shared an unbeaten 107-run partnership as Australia frustrated England’s bowlers on day two of the final Ashes match at the SCG.
Khawaja was just nine short of his first century of the series by the close of play while the prolific Smith had reached 44 in reply to England’s first-innings effort of 346.
England added 113 runs to their overnight total in the morning session and took one early wicket before Khawaja, Smith and David Warner (56) batted Australia back into the match.
The momentum was firmly in Australia’s camp after they rallied in the final three overs of day one to pick up two wickets with the new ball. Smith ensured England remained firmly under the pump this morning, taking a stunning one-handed catch to remove Dawid Malan for an assured 62 and hand Mitchell Starc his second wicket of the match.
So often England have folded but they hit back at Australia in Sydney as Moeen Ali and Tom Curran put on almost 50. Moeen had made 30, a far more respectable effort than his frenetic 14-ball 20 in the previous match, before he was caught behind off a rising delivery from Pat Cummins. That was after he was handed a lifeline as Josh Hazlewood shelled a regulation catch at mid-wicket – Curran was also dropped four balls earlier by Cummins as Australia suffered an uncharacteristically sloppy spell in the field.
Curran’s luck was up shortly after, however, as his impressive cameo came to an end as he was bounced out by Cummins for 39. Stuart Broad shared a 100-run partnership with double centurion Alastair Cook in Melbourne and was intent on playing his shots once again. He had moved to 31 off just 32 balls before he was caught in the slips attempting an expansive sweep. Debutant Mason Crane was the final man to go; a comical mix-up with James Anderson left him stranded in the middle of the pitch and he was duly run out a yard short of his ground.
England’s first-innings effort of 346 represented a par total, according to recent match figures at the SCG, and the score looked that bit better when Broad cleaned up the struggling Cameron Bancroft to reduce Australia to 1-1. After three consecutive failures, David Warner rediscovered his form during the Boxing Day Test with a century and an 86. He continued in this vain today, driving Broad and Anderson for boundaries and combining with Khawaja to frustrate Joe Root.
Warner moved to 44 before he offered a glimmer of a chance, Broad finding his edge but the ball dropping short of Root at second slip. But the opener was on his way shortly after reaching his 27th Test fifty as Anderson also found his edge and on this occasion the ball just about carried through to Jonny Bairstow. At the tea break, Australia were 96-2, still trailing by 250 runs.
Khawaja has threatened to go big twice in the series and reached his third fifty in seven innings with a straight six off Moeen. The Pakistan-born batsman’s innings was not without its scares, however, as Crane found both his edges in the space of two overs. The first deflected onto his pad and bounced up, only to evade Mark Stoneman at short-leg; the second dissected Bairstow and Root.
The dominant Smith was still going strong although did not appear in quite as magnificent nick as he has been throughout the tour, edging both Crane and Broad short of the slips as he moved into the 40s. England’s potency wavered as the day drew to a close and Australia cut the deficit to 153 at stumps.