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.

Related items

  • Stokes rejects criticism of England tactics after Elgar raised 'Bazball' doubts Stokes rejects criticism of England tactics after Elgar raised 'Bazball' doubts

    Ben Stokes promised England would not back down from their attacking approach against South Africa after rival captain Dean Elgar questioned the team's 'Bazball' tactics.

    New England skipper Stokes has enjoyed four consecutive victories in the long format since taking over leadership duties from Joe Root, with three coming against New Zealand and one against India.

    Now three Tests against South Africa await, with the first beginning at Lord's on Wednesday before further assignments at Old Trafford and The Oval.

    Proteas skipper Elgar told Wisden Cricket Monthly he did not see "longevity in brave cricket", suggesting England could easily have been left "with egg on their faces" against New Zealand.

    "Look, the opposition seem to be doing a lot of the talking about it at the moment," Stokes said on Tuesday.

    "We don't really speak about it that much, we just concentrate on what we do. We've got a style of play, they've got a style of play, and at the end of the day it's bat against ball and whoever plays best over a Test match is more than likely to win."

    England's approach has been nicknamed 'Bazball' because the lusty hitting of Jonny Bairstow has been so integral to the success. For each win in the current run, England have pulled off impressive fourth-innings chases, going almost gung-ho at times. Stokes and new head coach Brendon McCullum have encouraged the positivity.

    Stokes hopes the England team "hasn't lost its venom", given it has been six weeks since the last Test, with record wicket-taker James Anderson turning 40 in the meantime.

    Asked for how long Anderson might play on, Stokes said: "He's still 20 in my eyes, so 60 maybe, who knows."

    With a hint of mischief in his eyes, Stokes responded to a question of whether he might also play on in Tests until the age of 40 by saying: "I'd absolutely love to."

    Anderson's long-time pace partner Stuart Broad is one shy of becoming the second bowler to take 100 Test wickets at Lord's, with Anderson's 116 leading the way.

    Elgar was not inclined to return to the topic of 'Bazball', saying: "Mudslinging is a thing of the past for me, and we're not going to go back and forth any more about that."

    England chase four in a row against South Africa

    England have won each of their last three multi-game men's Test series against South Africa, so they will hope Stokes' strong start as leader continues over the coming weeks. Root made 190 and Moeen Ali took 10 wickets in the match when England crushed South Africa by 211 runs at Lord's in July 2017, ending a six-match winless run (D2, L4) in games against the Proteas at the London ground.

    Elgar looks to pace to pummel England

    South Africa are unbeaten in four series (W3, D1) since a 2-0 defeat to Pakistan in February last year, so they are not lacking in confidence. Elgar is prepared for moments of England dominance and says South Africa can ride that out.

    He said: "I know somewhere they're going to have periods in the game where they're going to be on top of us, no doubt, and we're going to have to find a way to adapt to that situation. I'd like to think from a bowling point of view, our bowlers are big, tall, fast and strong. We want it hard, we want it really tough, and hopefully the results go our way."

  • Uncapped Shahbaz replaces injured Sundar in India squad for Zimbabwe ODI series Uncapped Shahbaz replaces injured Sundar in India squad for Zimbabwe ODI series

    Uncapped all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed has replaced the injured Washington Sundar in India's squad for the ODI series in Zimbabwe.

    Sundar sustained a shoulder injury while playing for Lancashire against Worcestershire in the Royal London Cup last week.

    The 22-year-old has been ruled out of the three-match series against Zimbabwe, which starts at the Harare Sports Club on Thursday.

    Shahbaz, 27, could make his India debut after being given a late call-up for the tour.

    VVS Laxman has taken on head coach duties for the series, with Rahul Dravid afforded a rest.

  • Test and T20 balance 'like a Rubik's cube', says former England captain Strauss Test and T20 balance 'like a Rubik's cube', says former England captain Strauss

    Former England captain Andrew Strauss has likened the puzzle of balancing Test and T20 cricket to the complications of "a Rubik's cube" but is optimistic both forms can coexist together.

    The announced launch of new white-ball leagues, including the South Africa T20 League and International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates, has further outlined the dominance of the short-form game.

    England are set to return to Test cricket this month with a three-game series against South Africa, but the long-term future of the sport's five-day format remains a pressing question.

    Strauss acknowledges the challenges presented to balance the two forms are "complicated" within a fast-changing game, but still reasons there is a place for both providing officials do not bury "our heads in the sand".

    "The cricket world around us is changing unbelievably quickly," Strauss was quoted by the Guardian. "Every day, every week, every month, we're seeing a new example of how that world is changing.

    "We're having to ask ourselves in this country, where does our game fit into that? We [need to] make sure that we have incentives there for our players to play both red-and-white-ball cricket.

    "Of course, the ECB have put a lot of time and attention and effort into [giving] the Hundred the potential to be a global short-form event that matches any of these other leagues.

    "One of the things that we need to be conscious of in the game in this country is we have to be nimble and adaptable. We can't afford to be slow moving and have our heads in the sand.

    "We need to continue promoting all the brilliant things cricket in this country offers players – we want to have a strong domestic game, and we want to make sure the players are playing the right balance of formats.

    "I still maintain they can sit together comfortably, Test cricket and T20 cricket. But the challenge we have is, can we produce a manageable schedule that allows players to do both?

    "That is really complicated. It's multi-dimensional. It's like a big Rubik's Cube."

    Strauss will be on hand this Thursday for the second day of England's Test against South Africa, when Lord's will host its annual Red for Ruth day in memory of the ex-captain's late wife, who passed from lung cancer in 2018.

    Ben Stokes' side are looking to maintain their rich vein of form, with the team unbeaten since he succeeding Joe Root as captain earlier this year.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.