Ashes 2021-22: England facing Melbourne misery as Australia close in on series glory

By Sports Desk December 26, 2021

Australia tightened their grip on the Ashes as another abject performance from England meant it was a brutal Boxing Day for the tourists in Melbourne.

On day one of the third Test, a must-win match for England, Joe Root's men were dismissed for 185 and saw Australia race to 61-1 at stumps.

Australia are seeking to secure a third consecutive men's Ashes series win on home soil, while England's mission is to somehow make the contest competitive.

After bruising defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the evidence of day one pointed to more incoming misery for Root and co.

Having made six and a duck in Adelaide, Haseeb Hameed again fell without scoring at the top of the England order as the opener perished to returning Australia captain Pat Cummins.

His edge through to Alex Carey in the second over gave Cummins a 100th Test wicket on home soil, and a 101st was not long in arriving as the skipper prised out England's second opener, with a gully catch accounting for the recalled Zak Crawley.

Crawley made 12, and his exit meant that, at 13-2, England were again looking for Dawid Malan and captain Root to perform a rescue act. They enjoyed a century alliance in Adelaide but here could only put on 48 for the third wicket, with Malan edging through to David Warner at slip to fall for 14 and give Cummins a third victim.

Root reached 50 but went no further, a promising innings ending in disappointing fashion as he tickled Mitchell Starc through to Carey. And although Ben Stokes made 25 and Jonny Bairstow 35, England needed more from their middle order due to the openers' failings.

Poor shot selection accounted for most of the England wickets, and the theme continued as Jos Buttler fell for three before tea, lobbing spinner Nathan Lyon to debutant Scott Boland at deep mid wicket.

Australia wrapped up the innings when Lyon had both Jack Leach (13) and Ollie Robinson (22) caught in the deep to secure figures of 3-36.

Paceman Cummins posted the same numbers as Lyon, and the Australia skipper, who missed the Adelaide tussle after being deemed a close contact of a COVID-19 case, would have relished the sight of his batsmen piling on the runs in their reply.

Blood drawn, but Aussies fight on

Australian only require a draw at the MCG to retain the Ashes, but their instinct will always be to go flat out for victory against the old enemy. Boland, a 32-year-old Melbourne native, made two catches and snagged a popular first Test wicket when he pinned Mark Wood lbw, and the day ended in English despair when an edge from Marcus Harris through the slip cordon ran away for four. Harris had treatment for a bloodied finger moments earlier after being hit on the glove by Stokes, but battled on.

Banishing MCG blues

Australia have lost two of their last three men's Tests on Boxing Day (W1), being beaten twice by India after having been undefeated in their seven Tests prior starting on December 26 (W5, D2). They have won only one of their last three Boxing Day Tests played against England (D1, L1). James Anderson gave England brief hope when he had Warner (38) caught low down by Zak Crawley before the close – the 10th time he has dismissed Warner in Tests – but this was emphatically Australia's day.

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