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England can call on history books for much-needed Sydney boost

| 30.12.2013

As Alastair Cook and England desperately search for some positivity heading to Sydney attempting to avoid a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, they could do worse than to dig out the record books and analyse their recent visits to the famous SCG.

For while the visitors are understandably 10/3 outsiders to claim a morale-boosting and pride-salvaging victory against the Aussies (4/6 favs) following their calamitous tour so far, they do have an encouraging record in Sydney with only three losses in their last 11 Test matches there.

Things were obviously different last time round, when a win under the leadership of Andrew Strauss secured a memorable 3-1 series win Down Under. It represented a marked improvement on their previous tour in 2006/07, where a 10 wicket victory inspired by Glenn McGrath’s bowling sealed a series whitewash for the hosts.

Yet that was only Australia’s third Sydney success against England in 30 years, with England recording four wins since 1979 and the remaining four ending as draws.

The favourable batting track at the SCG has much to do with this and should the tourists rediscover their touch with the bat, the 3/1 on a draw that may be enough for Cook to save his captaincy is a tempting punt.

In particular, they should seek inspiration from the performance of a couple of former batsmen, now media pundits, Michael Vaughan and Mark Butcher. When their England side, led by Nasser Hussain, arrived at Sydney in 2003 they found themselves in a dispirited and despondent mood not dissimilar to the current sorry squad.

Leading the series 4-0, Aussie captain Steve Waugh was typically ruthless when he said he would deem it a failure should his side fail to claim the five zip, and when a promising first innings total of 362, helped by Butcher’s 124, was teasingly beaten by one run by the Aussies, England seemed down and out.

But opener Vaughan’s memorable 183 sent their second innings off to a flyer as England managed 452, before bowling out the stunned home side for 227, with Andy Caddick claiming seven of the wickets.

It proved a career-defining moment for many of the players, particularly Vaughan, and demonstrates to the current England side that some encouraging signs are salvageable from a 4-0 deficit.

England had won the toss and taken the option to bat on a decent enough wicket that time, and winning the toss has proven crucial in recent tests at the SCG, with five of the last six Tests there won by the side who called right before a ball had even been bowled.

Given that Cook is yet to win a single toss all winter, he’ll surely feel he’s overdue a favour from the coin this time round.

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Alexis James