Pick of the day
We look back on day one of the fifth and final Ashes Test in Sydney
By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK
Last Updated: 03/01/14 11:34am
Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin all made their debuts for the tourists and the injection of new blood looked set to prompt a change in fortunes.
As they have done on numerous occasions this winter, England appeared to have got themselves into a position of real strength at the SCG when - having won the toss for the first time and inserted the Australians - they reduced the hosts to 97-5.
But they were unable to push home their advantage and instead found themselves on the end of another counter-attack from the evergreen Brad Haddin who, along with Steve Smith, totally changed the momentum of the match.
It was Smith (115) who went on to record his second century of the series, but Haddin got our nod for 'man of the day' with a knock of 75 that was all about controlled aggression and opportunism.
As he has ever since being given his chance in Adelaide, Ben Stokes emerged as England's shining light on day one, the Durham all-rounder rolled up his sleeves up to claim a first Test five-for, eventually finishing with excellent figures of 6-99.
But following Michael Carberry's late dismissal for a duck, it was Australia who ended the day in the ascendency with the tourists closing on 8-1 in reply to the home side's 326 all out.
Smith on song
Despite his fine unbeaten century at the Oval last summer, doubts still persisted ahead of this series about whether Australia's Steve Smith was truly a Test-class No.5. At times his technique can appear rather awkward and loose, but his performances over the last few weeks with the bat have done his talking for him. A timely century in Perth was followed by another at a crucial juncture on Friday as he, along with partner-in-crime Brad Haddin, dragged Australia from a position of real peril to a more than respectable total of 326. Classical he may not be, but Smith has chipped in with runs at important times for the hosts and now looks to have cemented his place in a resurgent Australian side.
Stokes shines again
Some players just appear made for the challenge of Test cricket and Ben Stokes is proving to be one such character. Despite having to battle away in a string of losing causes, the 22-year-old has at least given England something to feel positive about on what has been a tour to forget. He still boasts the only England hundred of the series with his memorable knock of 120 at the WACA and on day one in Sydney demonstrated just how dangerous he can be with ball in hand as he returned the best figures of his fledgling international career with a haul of 6-99. All effort and aggression, the Durham youngster is rapidly turning himself into a fixture in an England line-up that now seems to be evolving at a pace.
Haddin the game-changer
If a rejuvenated Mitchell Johnson has proved the difference with the ball for Australia, it has been Brad Haddin who has set the tone with the bat for the Baggy Greens with a series of game-changing innings. Out of favour not so long ago, the veteran wicketkeeper is arguably playing the best cricket of his Test career at present and has caused England's bowlers no end of headaches. Haddin has amassed 465 runs to date in the series, averaging over 66, and it was his exuberant knock of 75 that turned the contest on Friday. Sky Sports pundit Michael Atherton hailed Haddin's "match awareness", stating: "Because he's coming in down the order, he's always responding to a situation... and the fact that he's a very experienced cricketer now at 36, he's seen all these situations before and is able to size them up very quickly."
What will 2014 bring?
For England and their supporters this Ashes tour probably cannot end soon enough, but there is plenty for cricket fans to look forward to in 2014 (once you have managed to erase the memory of Mitchell Johnson's moustache and those regular batting collapses). The ICC Twenty20 championship takes place in Bangladesh in March and England will prepare for the tournament with a three-week limited-overs tour of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, next summer will bring tours of these shores from both Sri Lanka and India, while England's women will take on their Indian counterparts. You can watch all of that action, as well as the best of the domestic game, live on Sky Sports and, with a bit of luck, the Ashes will soon just seem like a bad dream!