The fifth and final Test of the Australian summer gets underway in the New Year’s Day match against old foes England. It will be the 10th edition of the Pink Ball Test, which was named in honour of Glenn McGrath’s late first wife Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008; it also raises huge amounts of support and money for research and treatment of the debilitating disease. Traditionally the third day is the one where cricket fans are urged to deck out in their favourite pink clothes and paint the cricket ground a bright shade of salmon.
The Sydney Test is one of the most anticipated and historical events on the cricketing calendar and this year will be no different with England looking to restore some pride by avoiding another winless tour of Australia. The Aussies managed to salvage a draw in Melbourne after a stoic Alastair Cook held his bat in a series-high score of an unbeaten 244, while England will be hoping to build on that momentum from the MCG.
Thursday, January 4-8, 9:30am (AEST) @ SCG
On the back of miracle man Steve Smith and born-again all-rounder Mitch Marsh, Australia held out England’s late charge for victory on the final day of the Boxing Day Test to keep the Poms winless on Aussie soil for the past seven years. In a big boost to Australia, left arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc looks set to return to the fold in place of luckless seamer Jackson Bird while England has ruled out paceman Chris Woakes through injury; replaced by debutant leg spinner Mason Crane, who has been mentored by former Aussie spinner Stuart MacGill.
Australia does not have the best record at the SCG against England however they did win their last match at the venue and will look for back-to-back victories against The Old Enemy there for the first time since 1951. It is the ground famous for Steve Waugh’s miraculous century in 2003 and Ricky Ponting’s two hundreds in his 100th Test in 2006 and this year it looks as though skipper Smith has the chance to add to his already incredible run -scoring feats on his home turf.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Agar.
ENGLAND SQUAD: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alistair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, George Garton, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
The Ashes is a five-match test cricket series contested by Australia and England. It’s one of the greatest and longest running rivalries in cricket, dating back to 1882. Since its inauguration, 68 series have been played, with Australia shading England 32-31 in wins. Five Ashes series have ended in draws, with the holders taking the honours. The name of the event came after a British newspaper claimed that cricket had died, and ‘the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’. The mythical ashes immediately became associated with the 1882–83 series played in Australia, when English captain Ivo Bligh vowed to "regain those ashes".
Some of the greatest cricketers of all-time have played in The Ashes, including arguably the greatest ever Batsman Sir Donald Bradman. The Don holds the record for most overall runs in the competition’s history, racking up a total of 5028 in his time at the crease. Another Aussie legend in Shane Warne also dominates in the bowling department. The leg spinner has 195 Ashes wickets to his name, with none more memorable than his first. In fact it was his first ball in Ashes cricket in June of 1993 at Old Trafford in Manchester. Warne dismissed key Englishman Mike Gatting with what has been dubbed the ‘Ball of the Century’. With a ball that pitched outside leg stump, Warnie produced some wicked drift and spin which caught Gatting off-guard and the ball clipped the top of off-stump. It left the bemused batter in sheer disbelief and the crowd stunned.
The Ashes alternates between the United Kingdom and Australia, and when each nation plays host to the event, the five matches are usually played at various cricket grounds. In Australia, the grounds used include the Gabba, Adelaide Oval, WACA, MCG and SCG. The grounds used in the UK are generally swapped between The Oval in Kennington, Old Trafford in Manchester, Lord’s in North London, Trent Bridge at West Bridgford, Headlingly in Leeds, Edgbaston in Birmingham, Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and the Riverside Ground in Country Durham.
There is no doubt that the Ashes rivalry between Australia and England is the most intense in world cricket and it is The Old Enemy that has the upper hand over the Aussies in recent series. Last time these two nations met Down Under, a fiery Mitchell Johnson catapulted the host nation to a resounding 5-0 series whitewash. In fact two of England's last three visits have resulted in 5-0 demolition jobs!