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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 07:33 GMT
Fifth Test, day one as it happened
England 234-4 v Australia

Led by Ian Bell's fluent 71, England ended day one of the final Ashes Test in Sydney on an encouraging 234-4.

THE DAY'S ACTION (all times local to Sydney - GMT+11)

By Martin Gough

1834: The start will be at 1019am local time (2319 GMT) on Wednesday after the time lost to rain this morning. Don't ask why it's 11 minutes rather than an honest-to-goodness round number. It's one of those International Cricket Council directives that doesn't make much sense even when you're not sleep deprived.

Video highlights available on this website in about an hour, and a podcast of Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott discussing the day's action. I might be back for more tonight, depending on Mr Fordyce's health.

"England are in a pretty good position if they can get this partnership going again tomorrow, because you do worry about the batting to follow."
TMS commentator Jim Maxwell

Stumps - England 234-4 (Flintoff 42, Collingwood 25)

1828: There's a turn up. Without any build-up, the umpires have consulted and they're going off for bad light. As it's the scheduled close, that will be our lot for the day. A funny sort of day, with a faltering start foiled by Lee and Clark, a gritty revival during the afternoon, followed by McGrath's double strike and an unbroken stand of 67 from 19.5 overs to finish the day in remarkably breezy fashion.

1828: Ponting is sufficiently encouraged by the turn Warne is now getting to bring himself in at short leg. Collingwood finally gets bat to ball with a single towards mid-on. 234-4

"Best way to describe Collingwood: you never have to worry about him."
Andy texts from Camden

Text the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on 84040 (from the UK only)

1822: On the assumption that nothing is going to happen when Symonds bowls to Flintoff, I'm going to aim for three minutes' kip in each of his overs. Shout if you see anything I should mention. 233-4

1819: Collingwood nicks a single on the leg side off Warne as grey clouds gather around the SCG. We may not have long left, even though there are 12 more overs scheduled today. Colly sweeps and it flies off the top edge but Gilchrist can't get to it. 233-4

1816: Still medium-pace from Symonds to his sometime Lancashire team-mate. Flintoff is generally watchful in a maiden over. 231-4

1814: Warne deals a maiden to Collingwood, with another leg-break that fizzes past the bat. Time for Symonds again and England have to move here. 231-4

1810: Clark dishes up a half-volley and Flintoff splits the midwicket and mid-on fielders for a boundary. There's a wry smile from Flintoff as he shares a quick drink wth Collingwood. 231-4

"This is more like it from Flintoff. He is batting with purpose and the results are coming. The Barmy Army, for their part, haven't stopped singing since he came in."
Scott Heinrich, in Sydney for the BBC Sport website

1805: Mid-off is set well back and Flintoff easily takes a single there off Warne. Warnie tries the arm ball and Collingwood is unimpressed as he sweeps again, but there is a man out for the shot now and he only gets one. New ball in seven overs, folks. There could be some jumping about late on. The floodlights are on full power now with the natural light pretty poor. 227-4

1803: Flintoff drives a single then Collingwood tucks on the leg side and this athletic duo dash two. 224-4

1758: Warne's attempts to pitch the ball up result in three successive full tosses. Flintoff drives the first for a single and Collingwood sweeps the next two to the boundary, bringing up the fifty partnership in the process, from 70 balls. 221-4

1752: Clark switches ends to replace Lee. Flintoff gets a bit of a lucky edge between second slip and gully for four. He's following the "play positive" mantra here and it's working. There is also a back-foot drive to deep cover for one. 212-4

1743:The Clark experiment has lasted just two overs and it's back to Warne again. Again, there's a lengthy conference with Ponting, shuffling the fielders around before he starts. Flintoff takes a single Warne is starting to find some turn now, and rips a leg-break past Collingwood's proffered bat before the drinks break. 207-4

1742: Lee locates a good line to Collingwood and gets some good movement off the seam with one delivery to force wicket-keeper Gilchrist into a diving stop. 206-4

1736: Play should be over by now. I could be wending my way home, perhaps pausing to pick up a morning paper, waving jollily to the postman, then falling asleep before my head even hits the pillow. Trouble is, that 70-minute rain delay this morning means there is still 20 overs to bowl. Mind you, if Colly keeps driving boundaries like that one through extra cover, I'll manage the extra hour. 205-4

Geoffrey Boycott
"One of these guys if not both has got to put a telling innings together. They've got to work at it, keep their concentration because there's a lot of cricket to play yet."
Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special

1731: Collingwood turns Lee behind square for two to bring up the England 200 in the 67th over. England should be under real pressure here but they're looking more comfortable than they have all day. They will need to make the most of the next 13 overs before the new cherry is unwrapped. The action has awoken the Barmy Army, who are again telling anyone who wants to know who they are and where they come from. 201-4

1726: Clark replaces Warne and there is no thought for saving the pacemen until the second new ball. Flintoff swings for midwicket and it just keeps going, flat, over the boundary for six! Flintoff has really struggled in this series but that was a snapshot of his punishing best. 198-4

1721: Lee replaces McGrath in the attack. He's done well against Flintoff in this series and seems to be able to get reverse swing more readily than either his team-mates or rivals. No reverse there, though, as Flintoff smashes him through the covers for four twice in the over. 192-4

1717: Collingwood gets off the mark flicking Warne just in front of square. McGrath puts in a theatrical dive at the boundary but doesn't get anywhere near it. Collingwood's sweep is quite heavy with the top hand, keeping the whole thing under control. Flintoff has another swing but finds the man at fine leg. 183-4

1713: Flintoff drives through the covers but another good stop by Symonds keeps him to two. McGrath was looking a bit below his best before those two wickets but he is back on the button now. 177-4

1709: Flintoff cuts Warne through third man for his first boundary with his second scoring shot. He mis-cues a sweep at a delivery on leg stump but gets a single. The England skipper is in no mood to hang around, which at least means things will be entertaining but perhaps doesn't bode well as England look for a dominating total. 175-4

1707: Captain Andrew Flintoff gets off the mark, swinging McGrath for three through midwicket. 170-4

1703: WICKET England 167-4 (Bell 71)
McGrath has just applied the Boycott principle - taking two wickets off the score - with a full delivery that just shapes in and nicks the inside edge then rattles the stumps. From a position of strength, the tourists are struggling again.

1700: Bell pushes a single to bring Collingwood on strike to Warne. He gets himself ties in knots playing a forward defensive, with four men around the bat. 167-3

1659: McGrath leaps up in appeal after a delivery swinging in to new batsman Paul Collingwood's pads. It hit outside the line of off stump and was going over. 166-3

"That was not the way for such a promising partnership to end. The disappointment within Pietersen is palpable. The shot, so reckless, would have brought a wry smile to the face of John Buchanan."
BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich in Sydney

Batsman is out
1656: WICKET England 166-3 (Pietersen 41)
I suppose it was only a matter of time. Pietersen repeats the pull and gets a towering edge to midwicket, where Mike Hussey takes a running catch. Again, he got in then got out. That was McGrath's 900th international wicket, his 558th in Tests.

1654: McGrath sees Pietersen coming and digs in a bouncer. Pietersen has a wild pull which cames off the top edge, causes sharp intakes of breath all round but falls safely.

1652: Pietersen is skipping around as if he has tacks in his boots, taking a single down the ground. Warne dishes up a wide one and Bell puts it away to the square boundary. 164-2

1648: McGrath just errs wide enough for Bell to square cut for four and bring up the 100 partnership. What has been really impressive is the way Pietersen has taken a back seat. Despite some idiocyncratic attempts at shot-making he has taken few risks.159-2

1644: Warne is having to play more of a containing role at the moment, with little turn available. He's varying his lines and lengths a little to keep Bell on his toes. 155-2

1641: Still two slips in for McGrath, with the ball now 54 overs old. There isn't any discernable movement and he is pitching a little wider outside off stump. Another beach ball goes for a burton, brutally stabbed by a burly security man. Bell runs a single on the leg side. 154-2

1637: Warne continues and Pietersen flicks him to mid-on to bring up the England 150 from 321 balls. Bell drives one into the covers. Apply the Boycott rule from here and the tourists would still be in trouble. Pietersen sweeps Warne for the first time, over-balancing slightly, but there is a man out at deep backward square. 153-2

"I dare u guys to buy a beach ball, inflate it and send it in the direction of the inflatables police!"
Emma in Manchester, via text.

The TMS commentary team have been describing beach balls being let loose on the field of play during the afternoon, only to be seized and burst by the SCG fun police, but TV cameras must have been instructed not to show the action.

1633: That man McGrath takes the ragged old ball for another spell. Symonds was allowing the pressure to diminish before the break but if these two stick around for much longer, Australia will have to use their part-time bowlers a little more. A maiden, but not too threatening. 149-2

1630: Ricky Ponting pops another stick of gum into his mouth as he leads his troops out. There are 35 overs remaining in the day so there is another long session in prospect. We've missed a mushy moment over the tea break, with a redition of Sarah Brightman's "Time to say goodbye" for Warne, McGrath and Langer, with the players lining the balcony.

"Maybe a decent first innings score is looming for England for a change. Yes I know, we could be all out for under 200 yet but I've a feeling in my water about this one - but it might be this Yank beer!"
Ian McKillop, on holiday in central Florida but still on email

Email the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on

1626: Right, time for the big push through to dawn. Match-sticks aren't keeping my eyelids open. Maybe if I light them ... We're not allowed to use tradenames around here but I've opted for the choccie bar with all the bubbles in it. Mint flavour. Don't think it's in your quiz, Vicky.

Tea - England 149-2 (Bell 58, Pietersen 36)

1610: Bell gets an edge to a Warne leg-break for a lucky single. Pietersen defends the last ball of the over then struts off for tea with England in a far better position than they were at the lunch break, this partnership now worth 91 from 33 overs.

1606: As the batsmen start to milk singles from Symonds as in the middle overs of a one-day international, Vicky emails with a link to an online game where you have to guess the make of chocolate bat by studying it in cross-section. Almost time for tea and I shall have to nip to the tea bar for some choccie now. 147-2

1602: Bell takes a single then Pietersen unleashes a rasping drive that crashes into the stumps at the non-striker's end. Umpire Aleem Dar does a pirouette and the ball runs to cover as they take two. Bell gets a flipper he wasn't expecting but manages to dig it out to midwicket for a single. 143-2

Batsman scores 50
1555: Bell drives on the leg side to bring up his 11th Test half century - his fourth of this series - from 108 balls. A hard-fought knock so far, riding his luck at times but staying cool against some nagging bowling of the highest quality. 138-2

"This is a good partnership. They have come through some pretty stormy waters to have got as far as they have. Patience so far has been rewarded."
TMS summariser Mike Selvey

1552: Right, they're in and the ball is 47 overs old. Time to get on with it. On cue, Bell has a wide waft at Symonds and is lucky not to get an edge behind. He gets a single later in the over but doesn't risk going for a second that would bring up his half century. 136-2

1548: Bell moves to 48 with his fifth boundary, flicking a Warne full toss through midwicket. 134-2

1543: Andrew Symonds comes into the attack for the first time, having a long discussion with his skipper. It's medium pace for now, Pietersen tucking a single to midwicket. Bell spots a gap between midwicket and mid-on and they run three before Lee can get to it. These two keep running hard, with two from an indeterminate Pietersen prod towards square leg. KP comes down the wicket to Symonds but doesn't seem to know what he wants to do when he gets to it. 130-2

1540: There are singles for both batsmen early in Warne's latest over. Methods for staying awake, please, to the usual address. The words are starting to blur and we're only half-way through the day. An 0800 GMT finish likely today. 124-2

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1536: Pietersen gambles on a second run to Hussey at square leg and makes it with a dash. During the 2005 Ashes series, I reckoned that the moment anyone said anything about "old fashioned cricket" (ie three and over, grafting stuff), a wicket would fall. It is, but I'll not say it. Pietersen pulls a short one from Clark for a single. 119-2

Geoffrey Boycott
"The interesting thing there for Shane Warne was that there wasn't exceptional spin. We've seen it spin a lot more in this series."
Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special

1533: Bell drives Warne to cover for a single, and Pietersen faces a single delivery, flicking it square for one. 115-2

1528: The pressure of facing Warne makes Bell more aggressive against Clark and he almost pays the price as a top-edged pull lands safely between midwicket and mid-on. 113-2

"The home fans are unsure how to take the latest bowling change. On one hand, local lad McGrath is taken off. On the other, another retiring legend in Warne comes on. A healthy round of applause is the net result."
BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich in Sydney

1522: A buzz becomes a roar around the SCG as Warne finally removes his floppy, white hat and paces out his run-up. He has taken 62 Test wickets on this ground. Warne v Pietersen. Seconds out, round one. KP takes two steps down the wicket then steps back again to defend, looking a little like Mark Ramprakash on Strictly Come Dancing. Drives to a deep-set mid-on for a single to move to the Nelson. Not much turn yet for Warnie and Bell chops a single. 112-2

1520: Clark shaves Bell's bat with successive deliveries, still getting some shape with the ball 39 overs old. 110-2

1514: That's more like it. Thanks, Belly. Short from McGrath in his eighth over of this spell and Bell pulls for four to bring up the fifty partnership from 110 balls. The TV cameras are going back to Warne between every delivery. How long before the real fun starts? Bell is often at sea against the leg-spinner and it Warne's arrival would either kill or cure Pietersen. 109-2

1511: At first slip the tubby taker of 706 Test wickets is giving his hamstrings a bit of a stretch. We still have an hour to go before the tea break. This could be a crucial period but unless the action starts to hot up my eyelids will begin to droop. 105-2

1506: McGrath has applied successfully for the return of a third slip, floating a little wide that the orthodox position, in the area where Bell scored his boundary in the last over. The batsman carves just in front of point and they take three, making Hayden run for it. Pietersen makes it obvious he's coming down the wicket and McGrath loses control of the ball, which flies to midwicket. 104-2

1501: A moment of comedy before the resumption as umpire Bowden loses his hat in the wind, which is getting stronger. Pietersen's jig down the wicket brings him his first boundary, off his 42nd ball faced, flicked through midwicket. That brings up the England hundred, with the fifty partnership only a couple of shots away. 101-2

1453: Pietersen jigs down the wicket and pushes McGrath on the off side for two. Another trip down the pitch to the veteran seamer brings a single. Will McGrath allow his concentration to waver in the face of this impetuous improvisation? Bell steers him through third man for a boundary just before the drinks break. 97-2

1448: It took Australia 40 overs to bring Warne on in the first innings in Melbourne. This is the 33rd. Mind you, if Pietersen keeps lunging at the seamers like that, Warne can keep his floppy hat on in the slip cordon. KP flicks off his pads for two to move into double figures from the 34th ball faced. He whips a single square and slips up as he completes a single. 89-2

1446: Another near miss, or perhaps that should be near hit, for Bell pushing away from his body at McGrath's trademark delivery. 86-2

1440: Still no sign of Shane Warne as Clark rotates back into the attack, replacing Lee. Pietersen steps down the pitch, swings towards midwicket and edges towards point. KP tries the tactic again, just strolling down the wicket and turning to leg, anything to disrupt the rhythm of these fast-medium bowlers to get the scoreboard ticking a little more quickly. There's a loud "ooh" from the crowd as Pietersen edges just in front of second slip. If this comes off he will look inspired; if not, he'll look an idiot. 86-2

1436: Bell has a slice of luck and McGrath again has reason to feel aggrieved as the batsman gets four courtesy of an inside edge. McGrath beats the outside edge and turns his chuntering on the batsman, who probably won't want to reveal the contents of the exchange to his mother. 86-2

1432: Another leg-sider from Lee, Bell turning it just behind square and taking three. Lee digs one in short but again down leg and Pietersen swats it for a couple towards McGrath at fine leg. 82-2

1427: A decent contest is developing here between Pietersen and McGrath. The batsman plays and misses at a probing delivery so decides to stroll down the pitch to the next one, takes three steps and turns him on the leg side for a single. McGrath grins to himself as he goes back to his mark, perhaps telling himself a particularly good joke. 76-2

1424: That's more like it from Lee, who tries to put one up Bell's nose. A fuller delivery sees the diminutive batsman pull out very late. 75-2

1421: McGrath continues to test Pietersen, who has a bit of a loose drive that falls just in front of the close fielder on the on side. Another maiden from the metronome. 75-2

1415: Lee seems to have lost his radar slightly, and is dishing it up wide. It's nothing like the sort of radar-loss we've seen from some of England's back-up seamers so far in this series but Pietersen takes a couple, then drops one to his toes and dashes while Lee picks up and throws. 75-2

1410: GMcG returns to replace Clarke, whose figures so far read 7-2-18-1. He over-steps for a no ball, and Bell turns it just in front of square for a couple. The mobile phone company that sponsors this series has put three extra logos on the field for this match, saying "Thx Glenn", "Thx Shane" and, a late addition square of the wicket "Thx Justin". Do they not have predictive text in Australia? 72-2

1405: Bell pushes a single off Lee to move to 16. He has been low-key so far but pretty assured. KP is a little lucky as he has a push at a ball from Lee that moves away from him slightly. 69-2

1401: "Everywhere we go-o, people wanna know ..." The Barmy Army finds voice for the first time today. When I finally get my head down in about five hours' time, that mantra will be going round and round and I shall dream of that bloke who looks like Rod Stewart, or Jimmy Saville if you prefer. Vic Flowers is his name and, as always, his singlet has the St George cross on it as he leads the chorus. Ricky Ponting gets his boot to a Bell push to save the boundary but they take three. 68-2

1356: Bell gratefully accepts a leg-side delivery from Lee and flicks it square. Mike Hussey gives chase and stops the boundary but the batsmen still manage to run four, displaying far more commitment to running between the stumps than they did in the last Test. 65-2

"The thing about Bell is that despite all his successes last year he is intimidated by Australia."
Jeremy in London, via text

Text the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on 84040 (from the UK only)

"Not the ideal start for England after the day's first break. Cook really has struggled to cope with the nagging off-stump line of Clark and McGrath this series, but he will learn a lot."
BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich in Sydney

1351: The chattering Kevin Pietersen is the new batsman, getting off the mark first ball with a push and dash to Symonds at mid-off. 59-2

Batsman is out
1349: WICKET England 58-2 (Cook 20)
Cook wasn't listening to Geoffrey, clearly. He pushes hard at a delivery from Clark that just shapes in a little and gets an inside edge behind. He never looked really assured during that 47-ball innings.

1348: Lee bowls a maiden to Bell, getting more bounce than his colleagues.

Geoffrey Boycott
"There's a good opportunity for England to get in. It doesn't matter how many runs they get. Then there's all afternoon to bat and the evening as well. I think there's plenty of runs in this pitch."
Geoffrey Boycott extols the virtues of getting in by not getting out

1341: Cook looks to drive but doesn't quite middle it and it squirts to short extra cover. Clark is on the spot straight away with a maiden over. 58-1

"I'm afraid we are never really going to challenge Australia unless we adopt the same attitudes to the game. I have been following the Ashes since 1961 and we have always been too friendly, too accommodating, and generally too nice to them."
Derek Johnston on email

Email the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on

1338: Cook and Bell bound down the steps eager to get the afternoon underway. Clark will bowl the first over after the break. You'll be pleased to hear the fried bread was as good as ever from the all-night canteen.

Lunch - England 58-1 (Cook 20, Bell 7)

1257: The third slip has been taken out, and Cook can feel grateful after edging Lee through that area for four. It hasn't been much fun for Bedford School's finest this morning. He pushes a single off the last ball of the over. Will we get one more over before the break. The clock ticks to one o'clock as Aleem Dar saunters to his place and they head off for lunch. Not many positives for England there, except that they've only lost one wicket. I shall be having a fry-up. Hopefully that will keep the eyes open and the hangover, now stretching into its 24th hour, at bay.

1252: Clark slips down leg side and Bell flicks through the air just past Mike Hussey at square leg to take England past the 50 mark. The rest of the over is pitched up and Bell is happy to defend. 53-1

1248: Ian "The Shermanator" Bell gets off the mark first ball, in painful fashion as Lee raps his bottom glove and the ball runs away for two. There's a single to square leg, too, with 10 minutes to go to lunch. 49-1

Batsman is out
1245: WICKET England 45-1 (Strauss 29)
Strauss could have got out to any number of better deliveries but instead he waits for a short, wide one from Lee, tries to flay it square and gets an edge behind. He trolls off, swishing his bat angrily.

1244: Brett Lee switches ends to replace McGrath, who is unlucky not to have at least one wicket from his seven overs for 22 so far.

1241: Strauss takes a couple on the off side to bring up England's highest opening partnership of the series so far, topping the 41 of the second innings in Melbourne. Shot! Strauss drives through the covers but Symonds chases it down and Cook can't be bothered to run the third. 45-0

1237: Dropped! Strauss, on 21, edges McGrath just to the left of Langer at third slip. It's at shin height but Alfie should have pouched that one. Instead he spills it to the turn. Just dropped the, erm, final Test there. Strauss finally gets hold of a turn through midwicket for an authoritative boundary. 39-0

1235: "You should have had him that time Glenn". "I know, Glenn, first a play-and-miss then an edge for two as he tried to turn it leg side". "It's only a matter of time, Glenn".

1231: The rest of the ground can see Langer stopping Cook's drive at short extra cover but for poor CMJ in the commentary box there is a pillar in the way of his sight line and he describes a marvellous, but purely imaginary cover drive. 32-0

1227: "You almost had him there Glenn". "I know Glenn, he can't play that one angling across him, pitching on middle and leg". The various personalities of Glenn McGrath debate Strauss's play-and-miss on his way back to his mark. A maiden for McGraths. 32-0

"Despite England's troubles in this series, support for Flintoff's men is plentiful and colourful inside the ground. Lots of red and white and lots of voice on what is now a sunny day in Sydney."
BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich in Sydney

1220: An early change in the attack, and guess what! Stuart Clark replaces Lee, whose four over have cost 12. Cook drives square, and a little out of control for a boundary. Clark is getting a little movement through the air, unlike his colleagues. It's time for drinks and that ludicrous orange bottle wheels out to the centre. 32-0

"Clark has the best record against the two England openers this series, but it's his two NSW team-mates, McGrath and Lee, who get the new ball. Maybe Ponting has missed a trick."
BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich in Sydney

1217: There are some illustrious names in attendance at the SCG today with Steve Waugh, whose century here four years ago was an all-time Ashes highlight, sporting more grey hair than he used to have under his baggy green cap. Just a single there for Cook, behind square. 28-0

1212: Lee zips past Cook's outside edge again. The boy wonder recovers his composure with a straight drive but Andrew Symonds keeps it to three with a slide at the boundary. 27-0

1208: Strauss turns a couple to fine leg then forces through the covers and dashes for three with a real sense of urgency. McGrath offers up a rare delivery down leg side and Cook gratefully takes the single. 24-0

1203: Lee gets some extra bounce and beats Cook, who them drives into the covers for two to get off the mark. Cook loses his bottle looking to hook a bouncer and instead just traces the arc as the ball goes through. There are a couple down to third man, where McGrath looks likely to get a round of applause every time he touches the ball. 18-0

"The last time I remember three Aussie greats retiring was also at Sydney. G S Chappell, R W Marsh and D K Lillee all played their last Test in the New Year Test in 1984 against Pakistan. Australia won by 10 wickets! So not a good omen.
Mike Wren, via email

1158: Another lucky boundary for Strauss, who edges in front and just wide of third slip. McGrath hits the pad in line with middle and leg but umpire Bowden is unimpressed. Another edge! Barely in front of Langer at third slip. And he's beaten again - a brilliant over by McGrath, who is chatting to himself on the way back to his mark each time, cracking the odd joke, discussing the weather. 14-0

1156: There is a stroke of luck for the first boundary of the day, Strauss edging Lee just wide of third slip. He punches gloves with Cook in celebration, for some reason. Lee strikes a blow to the midriff but Strauss manages a flicked single off the sixth ball. 10-0

1150: McGrath brings one back in to Strauss and has a good chunter at the end of his follow-through. Strauss drives past mid-on for two but is beaten next ball with McGrath scrambling the seam. He gets a single off the final ball to keep the strike. 5-0

1146: Brett Lee shares the new ball and with his first delivery hits Alastair Cook on, shall we say the inner thigh? There is a loud groan from male members of the crowd as they watch the replay on the big screen. Cook is fidgeting and fiddling; he gets an edge to point while looking to turn on the leg side then wafts at a wider one and is lucky not to make contact. 2-0

1143: Strauss gets England off the mark with a flick through midwicket for two but McGrath is generally on the mark and gets a round of applause at the end of the over. Not much swing there. 2-0

1140: McGrath opens the bowling from the Paddington End with his former Middlesex team-mate Andrew Strauss to take strike. Three slips and a gully in. Strauss leaves the first one.

1138: Six security men in bright green vests accompany umpires Aleem Dar and Billy Bowden to the middle. Warne, McGrath and Langer come through the gate onto the arena together but McGrath makes it to the middle first on his home ground. There are about 40,000 in today - the same as the capacity of the Great Southern Stand in Melbourne.

1137: If you're planning your meal breaks, lunch will now be at 1pm local time (0200 GMT), tea at 4.10pm and the scheduled close at 6.30pm.

"We're looking through two sets of glass, a pillar then out onto the pitch but we'll try our best."
Jonathan Agnew faces as big a challenge as England's players during this Test

1129: It's time for Advance Australia Fair. Warne, McGrath and Langer are standing side by side in the Aussie line-up, all about to start their final Test match.

1127: There is some Starwars-style music and both teams emerge to line up for the national anthems, facing the green-roofed pavilion at the SCG. God Save the Queen first. England have their arms around each other's shoulders. Monty has a grin on his face but the rest are looking a bit nervous, including Freddie Flintoff.

"Martin, I empthasise with you, but on the other hand, it serves you right for working with the BBC. Is it wrong of me to not sleep for 36 hours before i have an exam?"
Dave O'Flanagan via email

No one else would have me, Dave. I'm sure you'll get an A star anyway - they hand them out like confetti these days.

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"That makes it three wins for England in the Toss Stakes. Batting first in Melbourne might have been risky, but it looks a fair call here. Sadly for local fans, it probably rules out the chance of either McGrath or Warne bowling Australia to victory."
Scott Heinrich, the BBC Sport website's man in Sydney

"There will probably be a bit of pace and bounce but once the shine goes I think it will be a good batting wicket."
Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting

"It's quite a good toss to win. The pitch looks pretty good. It will probably turn later on so batting last could be tricky. New year, new start. It would be nice to get off to a winning start."
England captain Andrew Flintoff

0012: Flintoff has been unlucky, then. He wins the toss and opts to bat first. This might be a fraught first hour or so.

"I think I would be very pleased to lose this toss, as was the case in Melbourne."
TMS commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins

1110: Forget that, here come Ricky Ponting and Andrew Flintoff with their team sheets. Play should start around 0040 GMT then.

1107: TMS statistician Bill Frindall reports that the record for consecutive Test appearances by an England player is 65 by Ian Botham. Matthew Hoggard looks likely at 40 with what was initially reported as a thigh strain but turns out to be a side strain. Someone in the reporting chain clearly has ear strain. Of course, until the toss takes place the side is not set in stone so a day's rain and a miracle recovery could still see the Hoggster playing number 41.

1102: The covers are off and the groundstaff are beavering away to get the wicket sorted. Still no official announcement but play will start half an hour after the toss so we need to get that coin in the air first.

1053: The umpires are out in the middle with an umbrella. Still a bit of drizzle and there is a medium-sized cover on the square. No official word yet but they are unlikely to even announce a start time until the drizzle stops. Chat amongst yourselves for now.

1042: "It's raining, just, but enough to keep everyone off the field. We should have had the toss 10 minutes ago."
Jonathan Agnew

"I sat at Lord's in July and said to my son unless we get this bowling sorted we will get hammered in winter. Now no Hoggy, 5-0." Mark Castleford via text

Text the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on 84040 (from the UK only)

It's raining at the cricket
1026: The covers are being dragged back on at the SCG. With more showers forecast it could be an on-off day. If there are any serious delays I shall be taking advantage of the sofa in the office next door. It's normally used for brainstorming sessions. Tonight it will be used for Martin-snoring sessions, weather permitting.

"There's a blustery shower heading across the ground. It might delay the toss but it's just a mizzly thing."
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

Geoffrey Boycott
"We've lost the plot. We've been losing it for a year and a half and we need to reassess it all. I'm not convinced that the chief executive of the ECB knows enough about cricket - he's just an administrator."
Geoffrey Boycott gets his eye in on the mic for TMS

"How are we gonna win now without Hoggy? He's the best bowler in the team!"
Laura Divin via email to Test Match Special

1006: Matthew Hoggard has been ruled out with a side strain. James Anderson replaces him in the only change to the side from the fourth Test in Melbourne so there is no place for the second spinner Jamie Dalrymple. That ends a run of 40 consecutive Tests for Hoggie and seriously weakens the England attack.

1003: News filters through that the start will be delayed until 11am local time. I could have had an extra half-hour's shut-eye.

0955: The phone rang about six hours ago. Tom Fordyce, who should have been in this seat over the next five nights is down with food poisoning so they needed a last-minute replacement. They clearly knew where to find a bloke with nothing better to do.

I had food poisoning last night. At least that's what I told my fellow partiers as I dashed for the back door after my umpteenth glass of red went down the wrong way. Right as rain now, but may not be in seven hours' time.

This will be the first Ashes action I've stayed up for since that car-crash final day in Adelaide so the omens are not good as England look to avoid the first Ashes whitewash since Sir Don Bradman was a 12-year-old.

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