Sydney: Ben Stokes admitted England failed to apply enough pressure and allowed Brad Haddin the chance to launch another counter-offensive as Australia ended the first day of the fifth Test sensing they can deliver an Ashes whitewash.
The morning started with Haddin lining up for the national anthem with his two-year-old daughter Mia, who is in remission from cancer, and rumours swirling that he will retire at the end of this Test on his home ground.
Australia denied talk of retirement and Haddin again showed his importance to the team at the age of 36 with his fifth consecutive first-innings score of over 50 in the series, as the last five wickets added 229 to lift the score from a perilous 90/5 to 326. Haddin got off the mark with a four and played his usual aggressive style along with Steve Smith, who scored his second hundred of the series and third against England in six Tests.
“We started really well, getting them to 90/five, but Haddin and Smith counter-attacked and they ended up getting 50 or 60 more than we would have liked,” said Stokes.
“We let them off the hook. We just need to start stringing more dot balls and maidens together which creates pressure. We did it this morning when we had them at 90 for five. Pressure creates more chances and the more pressure we build the more luck we will have.
“Quite a lot has gone his [Haddin’s] way but he has played his natural game and has taken every chance to get runs and played well. When he came in today (Friday) and hit you over your head you think this is not meant to happen.”
England’s attempt to styme another tailend fightback was not helped by the loss of Boyd Rankin, who twice left the field clutching an injury to his left hamstring, but was later diagnosed as suffering from cramps after a scan showed no muscle damage. He is expected to bowl in the second innings.
England have had doubts over Rankin’s fitness to bowl long spells in Test cricket but it was surprising that he suffered from cramps on a temperate summer’s day in Sydney, rather than the furnace-like temperatures of the Waca last month. He was nearly picked to play that Test.
He had bowled just eight overs when he pulled up for the first time, and Stuart Broad had to complete his over, as Rankin left for treatment in the dressing room. He returned after lunch to field at mid on but bowled just one more delivery when he went off for the final time.