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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Mason Crane set to become next Ashes debutant at SCG - so how did the others fare?

England leg-spinner will get his first taste of Test action in the final match of a series already won by Australia.

Mason Crane is set to make his England Test debut in the fifth and final Ashes match in Sydney, starting on Thursday. Rick Rycroft / AP Photo
Mason Crane is set to make his England Test debut in the fifth and final Ashes match in Sydney, starting on Thursday. Rick Rycroft / AP Photo

Now, according to England’s coach Trevor Bayliss, is as good a time as any for Mason Crane to be handed a first start in Test cricket.

The 20-year-old legspinner is apparently inked in for his debut in the final match of an Ashes series already long since lost by the touring side.

The urn is heading back to Australia. A series whitewash has at least been avoided by England, following their improved showing in the drawn Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. So why not experiment?

The wisdom is obvious. With little on the line, it is an opportunity to look see how a young prospect fares in the Test game, and in a city where he prospered as an overseas professional in grade cricket last winter, too.

However he performs, it might be prudent to reserve judgment. Five players have made their Test debuts at the SCG in the past two Ashes finales. Judged on those examples, it is hardly a guarantee of a long and fruitful Test career.

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2014, Australia won by 281 runs, and the series 5-0

Joe Root was dropped for the last game of England’s shambolic tour to Australia four years ago. He has returned there as the captain of the team this time around. His promotion apart, not much has changed between now and then.

Debutants (all England):

Gary Ballance

Role: Middle-order batsman

Age on debut: 24

Innings of 18 and seven were a middling start to a Test career that has had fits of promise. The left-handed batsman has made four centuries in 23 Tests, and is part of England’s tour squad now. The fact the has not played a match this time around, though, suggests he is not exactly trusted.

Success? Moderate

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Scott Borthwick

Role: Leg-spinner, allrounder

Age on debut: 23

Seen as a big leg-spin hope back then, in an England side newly-short of a spinner after the sudden retirement of Graeme Swann. Four years on, his bowling has fallen away completely. He has sporadically threatened to add to his single Test appearance over the past two seasons, but only as a batsman.

Success? No

Boyd Rankin

Role: Fast bowler

Age on debut: 29

Emblematic of a woeful tour for England, Rankin was forced off the field twice by a leg injury on his first day as a Test cricketer, and managed to bowl just 8.2 overs. After a four-year hiatus, he seems certain to add a second Test cap to the one he won at the SCG. It will carry a different crest, though - that of his native Ireland, who are scheduled to face Pakistan in their first Test last this year.

Success? No

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2011, England won by an innings and 83 runs, and the series 3-1

If Root’s demotion from the England side in Sydney in 2014 was an example of the fact the final Ashes Test is rarely a barometer for long term career success, then this match, three years previously, emphasised the point.

Steve Smith made a scratchy 18 then a battling 54 not out, batting at No 7 as Australia were routed. And yet for most of the time since, he has been doing his best to show he is the best batsman since Don Bradman.

Debutants (both Australia):

Usman Khawaja

Role: No 3 batsman

Age on debut: 24

It shows how low expectations were for Australian cricketers at that specific moment in time that Khawaja’s vanilla innings of 37 and 21 were relatively well received by the home public. He has played 28 Tests since getting his Baggy Green cap then, and is established in the batting line up now.

Success? Yes

Michael Beer

Role: Left-arm spinner

Age on debut: 26

A number of spinners were tried between the retirement of Shane Warne in 2007 and the advent of Nathan Lyon in September 2011. Beer was only briefly spotted. He took one wicket in the match as England amassed 644 in the only innings they needed to put the exclamation mark on their series win seven years ago. The slow left-armer only played one more Test, in West Indies over a year later.

Success? No