A week prior to the commencement of one of the oldest rivalries in Test cricket, the Ashes, the team management of the Australian side, were contemplating slotting in Usman Khawaja in the playing XI at number five.
However, Pat Cummins backed Travis Head to shoulder the responsibility of the side in the middle-order. The 28-year old repaid the faith of his skipper as he smashed 152 runs in the opening encounter at the Gabba to propel the side to an emphatic nine-wicket win.
While Head managed to turn around his career with a record-breaking performance, Khawaja's career was hanging by a thread despite consistent performances in the domestic circuit.
However, an unfortunate bout of covid to Head opened the door for the 35-year old in this Test match. And, he grabbed it with both hands as Khawaja on his home ground creamed a scintillating 137 runs to propel the home team to declare at 416 for the loss of eight wickets.
The fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground witnessed an absolute masterclass from the two hometown heroes as Steve Smith and Khawaja produced a clinical performance with the bat to stitch a 115-run partnership for the fourth wicket, bailing Australia out of a challenging situation.
En route this stand, the right-handed batter registered his seventh half-century, equaling Steve Waugh's record of half-centuries at the venue. The duo are second on the list, with Allan Border scoring 11 half-centuries at the SCG.
While the partnership threatened to take the game away from England, Stuart Broad produced a magical delivery with the second new ball to dismiss Smith for a well-compiled 67. The right-arm pacer, making a comeback in the XI for this Test, has dismissed Smith on nine occasions, the most by any bowler in the longest format of the game. The 35-year old produced a lethal spell with the second new ball and scalped five wickets to derail the middle-order of the home team.
Broad returned figures of five for 101, making him the third-oldest England bowler to register a five-wicket haul at the SCG. He is also the third player in this century to pick up a fifer at the venue after Ben Stokes' heroics in 2014 and Andy Caddick's sublime spell in 2003.
With Australia declaring at 416 runs, the opening combination of Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley were watchful in the five overs of play to ensure England are unscathed at stumps.
England were handed a reprieve in the penultimate over as Crawley was dismissed off a no-ball without troubling the scorers, by Mitchell Starc. The left-arm seamer has been in sublime form with the ball in this series and will aim to rattle England with pace in the morning session.
However, one of the significant causes of concern for him and the team management would be his underwhelming performances at the venue in red-ball cricket.
Despite being the local boy and having played all his cricket for New South Wales at this ground, the 31-year old has struggled with the ball and managed to scalp 20 wickets in 14 innings at an average of 42.5, which is the worst for him at home.
With luck going England's way for the first time in the series, the visiting side would hope to display their batting prowess and post a formidable total on the board on days conducive days for batting.
While Root has been rock solid for them, the performance of their openers along with Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes have been a concern for the Three Lions.
On the other hand, Australia would be looking to take advantage of the fragile batting unit of England and create inroads in the middle-order of the opposition. The home team will take a lot of confidence from their performance at the ground since 2017 as they have the best balls per wicket ratio of 69.9, which is the best alongside India.
With the forecast looking bleak for the next three days and rain set to have a massive impact, Cummins would expect his bowling unit to keep England to a low score and push for a result.