England’s Sydney debutants: Bob Willis, Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 03/01/18 12:44pm
With Mason Crane handed his Test bow for England at the SCG, we look back at the tourists' recent Sydney debutants and how their Test careers progressed…
"On this surface, he's going to be a really good option - it looks like it should give a bit of turn throughout," England skipper Joe Root said of Crane ahead of the Sydney Test.
It will be the second Ashes tour down under in succession that England hand a debut to a leg-spinner, with that honour bestowed upon Scott Borthwick in 2013/14.
The SCG was also where a certain Sky Sports Cricket expert made his maiden Test appearance...
That's right, Big Bad Bob! Called up to England's Ashes squad as a fresh-faced 22-year-old, Willis replaced the injured Alan Ward, becoming the 448th player to play Test cricket for England in the fourth Test in Sydney in January 1971.
With the series level, Willis went wicketless in the first innings but bowled a very economical spell (nine overs for just 26 runs) as England bowled Australia out for 236.
With the Aussies eventually set 416 to win, John Snow took 7-4 to dismantle the hosts and Willis only managed three overs, but he did pick up his first Test wicket, Ashley Mallett, caught behind by Alan Knott.
It proved to be the first of many for England with Willis taking 325 wickets at an average of 25.20 from his 90 Tests. His most famous spell came in 1981 at Headingley when he took 8-43, one of the all-time best Test bowling performances, to bowl Australia out for 111 after Ian Botham's 149.
A four-time Ashes winner, Willis is fourth on the list of England's all-time Test wicket-takers, behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Botham.
Ballance was one of three beneficiaries of the disastrous 2013/14 tour to Australia. Drafted in at no. 6, the left-hander scored 18 in the first innings and just seven in the second as England slipped to a 281-run defeat and a 5-0 whitewash.
It didn't put England off, though, and Ballance went on to record a maiden Test hundred against Sri Lanka at Lord's in the summer of 2014. That was followed by two in successive Tests against India, at Lord's again and Southampton.
The Yorkshire star became a real backbone of England's batting line-up in what was a fine start to his Test career, scoring 1,019 runs at 67.93 in his first 10 matches.
However, things slowly began to unravel in 2015 as New Zealand and Australia exposed his technique, leading to him being dropped for the third Ashes Test.
Since then Ballance, who has played 23 Tests, has been in and out of the side with his form for Yorkshire far greater than that for his country - his Test average dipping below 40.
He is part of the current Ashes squad but has not featured for England since fracturing his finger in the second Test against South Africa last summer.
Borthwick is another with player one Test cap to his name and like Ballance it came at Sydney at the end of the 2013/14 Ashes tour.
Added to England's squad just before Christmas after Graeme Swann's sudden retirement, it was hoped the young leg-spinner, who was also seen as a useful batsman, would become a fixture of the England side for years to come.
Given his chance in the final Test at the SCG ahead of Monty Panesar and James Tredwell, Borthwick took four wickets in the match but failed with the bat in the number eight position in another heavy defeat for the tourists.
Since then the left-hander's run-scoring has outweighed his wicket-taking, causing England to lose interest.
However, his sheer weight of runs in 2016, and a move up the order to No 3, brought him back into the thoughts of the England selectors but he's still waiting to add to his solitary Test cap.
The third and final debutant from the infamous 2013/14 tour.
Rankin first came to prominence for Ireland during the 2007 World Cup - the tall fast bowler taking 12 wickets to help his side reach the Super 8 stage of the tournament.
Five years later, Rankin switched to England in a bid to play Test cricket and after a number of promising displays in limited-overs internationals, he was selected for the 2013/14 Ashes.
He was overlooked until the final Test of the series in Sydney and bowled just 20.5 overs in the match, recording figures of 1-81. It proved to be Rankin's first and final Test appearance for England, with the seamer pledging his allegiance back to Ireland in December 2015.
It might not prove to be his final Test appearance, though, with Ireland due to play their maiden Test against Pakistan on home soil in May this year.