Ashes 2021-22: Australia claim four late wickets to grab stronghold in Melbourne

By Sports Desk December 27, 2021

Australia took four late wickets amid a devastating spell with the ball to grab a stronghold on their way to sealing the Ashes after England had fought back on day two of the third Test at the MCG.

Mitchell Starc claimed the scalps of Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan in successive balls before Victorian debutant Scott Boland had Haseeb Hameed caught behind and bowled Jack Leach to leave the visitors reeling.

England were 31-4 at stumps, trailing by 51 runs as Australia, who lead the series 2-0, look to clinch the Ashes in Melbourne. Joe Root (12*) and Ben Stokes (2*) will resume at the crease on day three.

The visitors had rallied to keep the Boxing Day Test alive, having dismissed Australia for 267 led by veteran James Anderson with 4-33.

All this after drama forced the resumption of play to be delayed after a coronavirus scare within the England camp, before all the players were cleared for an 11am local start.

Australia had resumed at 61-1 after England were all out for 185 on the first day. Marcus Harris resumed at the crease and top scored with 76 on his home deck.

England had made good inroads into the Australia batting order at 110-4, dismissing number one Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne for 1 and vice-captain Steve Smith for 16 from Chris Wood (71-2) and Anderson respectively.

Harris was the only Australian to score more than 40, with Travis Head (27) getting a start before falling to Ollie Robinson (64-2), who had a hamstring scare but played on.

England appeared set for a nominal first-innings deficit before a late cameo from Starc (24*) and captain Pat Cummins (21) opened up an 82-run lead.

However, Australia turned the game in a stunning final 45 minutes with Cummins almost having Crawley caught behind for a duck when Alex Carey botched a chance, before the English opener went in the next over to Starc (11-2).

Starc trapped Malan lbw next ball despite a review, before Boland was introduced to the attack, having Hameed caught by Carey before clean bowling Leach two balls later.

Starc misses rare Boxing Day hat-trick

Starc almost claimed the first Boxing Day Test Ashes hat-trick since Shane Warne in 1994 when he dismissed Crawley and Malan in successive deliveries. England skipper Root survived a close call on the hat-trick ball which had the MCG crowd on their feet as it whizzed past the bat.

Local hero fires up crowd

Local debutant Boland only managed one wicket in the first innings but received great support from his home crowd during his brief batting innings before a double strike with his only over after being thrown the ball late in the day.

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