Ashes - England edge rain-affected first day

Mon, 03 Jan 05:58:00 2011

Australia ended day one of the final Ashes Test in Sydney on 134 for four against England in a rain-affected opening tussle which saw the tourists' bowlers just come out on top.

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Three home batsmen - Phil Hughes, debutant Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson - all got set but were dismissed between 30 and 50, and it was England who left the field in buoyant mood amid heavy rain.

Michael Clarke, replacing the injured Ricky Ponting as skipper, started well by winning the toss in his first match in charge of Australia, and elected to make first use of a green-tinged wicket at the SCG.

Khawaja was the most fluent of the Australia batsmen on his Test debut as the Pakistan-born left-hander, the first Muslim to represent his country, made 37 from number three as the tourists' bowlers battled hard on a slow deck to hold their hosts under the cosh.

While England have already secured the Ashes, Australia could square the series with victory and the hosts had guarded their wickets with great tenacity before losing them cheaply. Two sudden rain breaks then ate 32 overs out of the day.

Khawaja came in straight after a lunch break precipitated by the fall of opener Hughes, who had wasted a good morning's work with a sloppy shot to be caught at slip by Paul Collingwood off the bowling of Chris Tremlett.

The 24-year-old Khawaja, the first Australian to debut at number three since Justin Langer in 1993, had been forced to wait for his chance but grasped it when it came courtesy of an injury to captain Ricky Ponting.

In a clear statement of intent, he sent the first ball he faced racing away for two runs before summoning up a beautiful pull shot at chest height to dispatch the second for four with real confidence and composure.

Eight balls into his Test career, he had made 15 runs and although he then settled into the more conservative pace of his team-mates, the SCG was buzzing in anticipation of what the talented left-hander could produce.

The burly opener Watson had epitomised the conservative approach, waiting 89 deliveries for his first boundary and taking more than three hours to put on 45 before Tim Bresnan had him caught in the slips by England skipper Andrew Strauss.

Strauss, who kept faith with the team that retained the Ashes with an innings-and-157-run victory in Melbourne last week, had urged his bowlers to put the Australians under pressure on a pitch which offered very little tangible assistance.

Tremlett, James Anderson and Bresnan were, however, unable to get much swing going despite a reasonably grassy track with overcast skies overhead, having instead to build pressure slowly and steadily.

Clarke bucked the tradition of the skipper doling out the baggy green caps as Khawaja received his from former captain and Test opener Mark Taylor, while Shane Warne did the honours for the other debutant, his fellow spinner and former club mate Michael Beer.

But Clarke was unable to arrest a pitiful slump in form during the series in his first innings as captain, and he was snaffled by Anderson at gully for a paltry four as Bresnan claimed his second scalp, and England had once again dominated the Australia top order.

Khawaja followed shortly afterwards as he skied a sweep into the air off the bowling of Graeme Swann, who struck in the first over of his second spell, with Jonathan Trott taking a steepling catch. It was a wildly-celebrated dismissal with the debutant having looked assured at the crease.

A second rain delay saw the players depart immediately after the fourth wicket fell in what proved to be the final session of the day, and stumps was eventually called prematurely with day two set to get underway early to make amends for the 32 overs lost.

Australia must win here to square the series at 2-2 and therefore prevent Strauss's team becoming the first tourists since 1986/87 to win the Ashes outright Down Under.

Day one timeline (All times UK):

01:01 - Australia 50-0 (21 overs) - Hughes brings up the 50 partnership between him and Watson with a savage cut through point for four runs.

01:33 - Australia 55-1 (30 overs) - Tremlett locates Hughes's outside edge as Collingwood takes a sharp catch at third slip to take the wicket.

01:35 - Australia 55-1 (30 overs) - LUNCH

03:22 - Australia 105-2 (45 overs) - Khawaja brings up the 50 stand between him and Watson with a nurdle behind square for three runs off Bresnan.

03:24 - Australia 105-2 (45 overs) - Watson edges a full delivery from Bresnan behind to Strauss at slip, who takes a comfortable catch.

03:39 - Australia 111-2 (48 overs) - TEA/RAIN DELAY

05:19 - Australia 113-3 (51 overs) - Clarke flails the bat sloppily at a full delivery from Bresnan, and he is snaffled at gully for just four.

05:51 - Australia 134-4 (59 overs) - Khawaja slices a sweep up into the air off the bowling of Swann, and Trott takes a steepling catch.

05:51 - Australia 134-4 (59 overs) - RAIN DELAY

06:54 - Australia 134-4 (59 overs) - STUMPS

Dan Quarrell, Eurosport / Reuters

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