Sports, Cricket

Australia on top after Pat Cummins sets Boxing Day tone

Published : 26 Dec 2021 09:17 PM

It was a case of the more things change the more they stay the same for England as Australia took a stranglehold on the Ashes, bowling out the tourists for 185 on the opening day of the third Test at the MCG before reaching the close one wicket down and only 124 runs behind.

England had made four changes to their side that lost by 275 runs in Adelaide to concede a 2-0 lead in the series, but again their batters struggled as Pat Cummins ripped through the top order by lunch and Nathan Lyon matched his captain's haul of 3 for 36 as England succumbed for under 200 runs for the 12th time this year.

In between, Cameron Green reaped rewards for a suffocating four-over spell and Scott Boland claimed a wicket on Test debut while also taking two catches to have a further hand in England's demise before a Boxing Day crowd of 57,100.

The Australians reached 57 without loss before James Anderson had David Warner sharply caught by Zak Crawley at gully. The hosts closed on 1 for 61 with under-pressure opener Marcus Harris unbeaten on 20.

Cummins won the toss after rain delayed the start and sent England in to bat on a pitch offering some grass coverage. He capitalised with his fifth ball - the 11th legitimate delivery of the match after Mitchell Starc had opened with a no-ball - when he had Haseeb Hameed out feathering a catch behind to Alex Carey for a second consecutive duck.

Cummins then had Crawley, replacing opener Rory Burns, caught by Green at gully for 12 as England slumped to 2 for 13 inside eight overs. The tourists were again looking to Joe Root and Dawid Malan to steady them and they did, to some extent, with a 48-run partnership from 115 balls. But England needed so much more than even the 162-run stand they put on to give them some hope in the first Test in Brisbane and, when Cummins had Malan caught in the slips by Warner on the last ball before the lunch, they were again in strife at 3 for 61.

Root brought up his ninth fifty in Australia after the break, but he fell a short time later when Starc - used sparingly in the morning session - had him caught behind chasing a ball outside off stump. Visibly furious with the fallibility of his dismissal, Root now needs to score a maiden century in Australia - 109 runs to be precise - in England's second innings if he is to pass Mohammad Yousuf's record for runs scored in a calendar year.