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By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Jan 3 (Reuters) - England captain Alastair Cook won the toss for first time in the series and chose to send his new-look team out to bowl in the fifth and final Ashes test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Friday.
Australia, who have already reclaimed the Ashes, were unchanged for the fifth test in a row as they bid to finish the series with a fifth win to sweep the tourists 5-0 for only the third time in the long history of the rivalry.
England dropped top order batsman Joe Root, spinner Monty Panesar and seamer Tim Bresnan and awarded debuts to batsman Gary Ballance, leg-spinner Scott Borthwick and paceman Boyd Rankin.
The wicket has a greener tinge than witnessed for a test match at the SCG for many years and with the skies over the newly-redeveloped ground overcast, Cook decided to send out his pace attack.
“Obviously looking at the wicket there is quite a lot of grass on it, quite a lot of green grass as well, obviously the overhead (conditions),” he said.
“I don’t think it will change too much in the game and we want to make the most of the new ball.”
Root was a surprise omission as most pundits had expected opener Michael Carberry would give way if any changes were to be made to the top order.
“He is a very talented young cricketer and he will definitely play a lot for England. We know that,” Cook said of Root.
”It’s a tough call but unfortunately tough calls needed to be made at certain times.
“When you have a winning side it tends to be a settled side. And when you’re not winning, people aren’t performing so that’s why they get (dropped).”
Clarke was able to walk out ahead of the same team after paceman Ryan Harris (knee) and all-rounder Shane Watson (groin) proved their fitness.
“It’s credit to the support staff, the physio and the doctor and the players to be able to get up day after day and manage their bodies as well as they have and continue to play the way we have been playing,” he said.
Clarke has been cautious all week about talking too much about the 5-0 sweep and said there was a lot of hard work to do to achieve it.
“We’re about to find out,” he said. “If we play in the same way like we have in the first four tests matches there will be no doubt about it. I think today will be quite tough batting first on this wicket, so we have got a big job in front of us.”
Australia - Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon
England - Alastair Cook (captain), Michael Carberry, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Scott Borthwick, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Boyd Rankin
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury