English batting failure looming as Smith and Haddin save hosts

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It may be a new Year but any resolutions the England side made about not letting Australia walk to a 5-0 Ashes victory looked close to being broken on the first morning of the final Test in Sydney.

It was a case of familiarity as, batting first, Australia slipped to 97-5 only for two of their leading batsmen to dig them out of the hole.

Steven Smith, who made a second series century, and Brad Haddin, with his sixth score of 50 or more in just his seventh innings of the series, put on 128 for the sixth wicket as the hosts posted 326 all out.

Ben Stokes was the pick of the bowlers for England, who named Gary Ballance, Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin as a trio of debutants for the match, with figures of 6-99 but he’ll be frustrated that the innings represented yet another occasion where England let a good position slip.

In response Alastair Cook’s side are already one wicket down, losing Michael Carberry for a globe when he flicked the fiery Mitchell Johnson to Nathan Lyon at leg slip.

The captain remained unbeaten and will be joined at the crease by nightwatchman James Anderson for day two. However, hope of the mentally scarred tourists carving out a first innings lead remains slim.

Ladbrokes have set the line for their total runs in the first innings at 256.5 overnight and the 5/6 on the batting lineup failing to crawl their carcass over that mark looks ripe for the taking.

Not once in the series so far have the batting unit taken their first innings total over that figure and punters backing over on that line would have been left frustrated eight times in the last 12 first innings.

Add England’s foal-like side to the fact that no visiting player sits in the series’ top six runmakers and another first innings failure looks imminent.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.