While it was an overwhelming disappointing Ashes tour for Joe Root, the England captain displayed plenty of courage by returning from a stint in hospital ahead of day five at the SCG and heading back out to face the heat of the Sydney weather and the Australian bowling attack in an attempt to save his team from another defeat.
Root’s pluckiness instantly revived memories of another gutsy visiting skipper at the SCG: South Africa’s Graeme Smith.
The Proteas had wrapped up the three-match series in 2008-09 with wins in Perth and Melbourne, but Australia was determined to restore pride with a win in the Sydney New Year’s Test.
The hosts’ chances took a massive upswing when South African captain Graeme Smith – who was averaging 80 in the series – suffered a broken hand early in the tourists’ reply to Australia’s first-innings total of 445.
Smith was not sighted until the final day, when South Africa was reduced to 9/257 in their pursuit of 376 for victory. Amid uncertainty over whether the match was finished, Smith received a standing ovation as he took to the SCG.
Despite the excruciating pain of his broken hand, as well as a bad elbow injury, Smith survived 17 balls in a desperate attempt to salvage a draw before being bowled by Johnson just minutes out from the close of play.
Australia had secured a face-saving 103-run win, but the iron-willed Smith had secured a place in the annals of Test cricket courage.