England crashed to 185 all out on day one of the third Test on Sunday, leaving their Ashes dreams on the brink of ruin in the face of a relentless Australian attack.
After heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the visitors
must win in Melbourne to keep the five-Test series alive, with Australia only
needing a draw to retain the urn as holders.
But those hopes took a near-fatal blow as Australia ripped
through England’s flimsy batting, with only captain Joe Root (50) and Jonny
Bairstow (35) showing resistance.
Australian skipper Pat Cummins, back after missing the
second Adelaide Test because he was in Covid isolation, and spin king Nathan
Lyon both took 3-36.
Australia then added to England’s pain by negotiating 16
overs to be 61 for one at stumps, trailing by only 124 with Marcus Harris
not-out 20 despite taking a nasty blow to the finger, and nightwatchman Lyon
yet to score.
But on another bad day for England they did bag the big
wicket of David Warner, who raced to 38 off 42 balls before sending a thick
edge off Jimmy Anderson to Zak Crawley at gully.
After batting collapses and poor bowling in the first two
Tests, Root read his players the riot act —seemingly to little affect. They
have failed to score more than 297 in five innings so far.
Openers Haseeb Hameed (0) and Crawley (12) fell cheaply to
Cummins after he won the toss and put England in to bat, with their hopes
resting once more on Root in front of 57,100 fans at the MCG — less than
expected due to Covid concerns.
He brought up his 53rd Test half-century in his 112th match,
but once more failed to convert it into a maiden ton in Australia after a poor
shot on 50 to Mitchell Starc.
The visitors wielded the axe after their 275-run defeat in
Adelaide with Crawley in for Rory Burns and Bairstow replacing Ollie Pope at
Speedster Mark Wood was recalled after being rested in
Adelaide, as was off-spinner Jack Leach, with Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad
Wearing black armbands to mourn former England captain Ray
Illingworth, who died aged 89, Crawley confidently drove Cummins for three in
his opening over.
But Cummins struck three balls later with Hameed’s torrid
tour continuing, out after nicking to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Crawley earned his first Test chance since March due to
Burns’ poor form, but he failed to grab it, finding an outside edge to a rising
Cummins ball that Cameron Green superbly caught at gully.
His dismissal for 12 left England at 13 for two with Dawid
Malan and Root, the only two English batsmen to pass 50 this series, again on
the back foot.
A cautious Malan took 18 balls to get off the mark, but
disaster struck just before lunch when he got an edge off Cummins on 14 that
carried to Warner at slip.
Root played positively to move past South Africa’s Graeme
Smith (1,656 in 2008) and into third place for the most runs scored in a
But just as he looked set he offered a lazy stroke that took
a nick and was taken by Carey, with the England captain livid as he trudged
After star all-rounder Ben Stokes departed for 25,
succumbing to pressure from Green and playing a cut shot straight to Lyon at
point, Jos Buttler lasted only 11 balls.
He hit Lyon to debutant Scott Boland, the first Indigenous
man to play Test cricket for Australia since Jason Gillespie.
Boland then took the wicket of Wood, lbw for six, before
Bairstow gloved Starc to Green and Australia mopped up the tail.