Pitch report: Sydney Cricket Ground
Give the Aussies' current form, England's batting woes and lack of proper spinner, one imagines Australia will bat first and long, and look to make it 10 wins out of the past 11 games here.
<b>Established:</b> 1848<br><b>Capacity:</b> 44,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Paddington End, Randwick End<br><b>Home Team:</b> New South Wales<br><b>Head Groundsman:</b> Damian Hough<br><b>Test History:</b> 101 Tests; 56 home wins; 28 away wins; 17 draws<br><b>Last 10 Tests:</b> 9 home wins, 1 away win<br><b>Last 10 Tosses:</b> 9 batted first (4 wins, 5 defeats), 1 bowled first (1 win)
<b>Overview</b><br>The Sydney Cricket Ground is situated in Moore Park and is the home of the New South Wales Cricket Association. Formerly known as the Garrison Ground, the first recorded cricket match was played there in 1854 but the venue was rebuilt in 1877.
Just five years later it welcomed Test cricket, by which time it boasted two grandstands. The rebuilding continued, including the removal of a cycling track in the 1920s, with the Bradman Stand completed in 1973.
Renovations continued into 2014, with the Bradman and MA Noble stands rebuilt, though the rooves were not finished in time for the New Year's Test between Australia and England.
It has long been used as the venue for Australia's New Year Test and although not huge by Australian standards, can create an intense atmosphere with the spectators so close to the players.
The SCG is also the home of the AFL's Sydney Swans and has staged tennis, both codes of rugby and even motor racing. In 1938 it hosted the British Empire Games.
The 2012 New Year's match between Australia and India brought the Sydney Cricket Ground's its 100th Test, making it only the third venue after Lord's and the Melbourne Cricket Ground to reach the milestone.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The most recent Test at the SCG was exactly a year ago, when Australia beat Sri Lanka by five wickets in the New Year's Test, ending the game at tea on day four.
Against the grain, the hosts opted to field first after winning the toss. Jackson Bird took four wickets in the first innings, in only his second Test, as the Sri Lankans were all out for 294 at stumps on day one.
Australia's fast bowlers continued to have a good match, with Bird adding three wickets to his tally later on, while Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle also bagged scalps. Spinner Nathan Lyon was not as fortunate.
For Sri Lanka though, spinner Rangana Herath did manage to get some turn on a pitch that used to be good for spin, bagging four and three wickets. But his efforts were not enough to prevent the 432 for nine Oz made in their first knock.
The visitors were then all out for 278 in their second innings, leaving the hosts with just 141 to get. This match saw Matthew Wade score a century, the second of his career, though it did not secure his future place.
<b>They Said</b><br>Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene after the defeat: "The quicks were not getting much out of this, we should have posted a much better total."
On the possibility of a drop-in pitch being used, SCG Trust chairman Rodney Cavalier said: "Certainly on my watch they know it's not going to happen.
"It was never more than a polite inquiry, but the SCG, I made it clear way back when Adelaide declared that it would be going to a drop-in wicket, that even if the Sydney Cricket Ground was the last cricket ground in the world that had a traditional wicket it would remain the last cricket ground in the world."
Australia vice-captain Brad Haddin on the extra grass, and it's potential impact on spin: "(Having grass on the wicket) that also allows spin early in the game. I think the one thing with spinners and Nathan is that it's not so much whether it breaks up, it's the bounce. If there's enough bounce in there Nathan will get enough out of it."
Former paceman Glenn McGrath on Michael Clarke's pitch inspection: "He was out there looking (at the pitch). I don't know – there's a bit of grass. I don't think it matters whether Australia bats or bowls first."
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Only five players have more than 1000 Test runs at the SCG, and none are active today. Michael Clarke is the best of the current lot, with 747 runs in seven games, averaging 53.
As for England, the last time they played here they recorded a massive win, with Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Matt Prior all scoring tons, Prior to that, in 2007, Bell made a neat 71 in a losing cause.
Bowling-wise, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson both have 18 wickets here (both in five Tests), with Shane Warne topping the list with 64. For England, James Anderson took seven wickets the last time they played here.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>The first two days are set to have some cloud cover but little chance of rain, while days three and four have a slightly higher likelihood of showers, though only in the afternoons. Day five, should we make it that far has the most chance of rain.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>Give the Aussies' current form, England's batting woes and lack of proper spinner, one imagines Australia will bat first and long, and look to make it 10 wins out of the past 11 games here.
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