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DAY 1 REPORT: England on the canvas as Aussies dominate lopsided Boxing Day fight

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26th December, 2021
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They’ve been described as one of the worst touring teams to land in Australia and Joe Root’s England side have done little to change anyone’s opinion.

They hit a new low on day one of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG when they were rolled by the third session and only took one wicket as Australia cruised to stumps.

Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (0) and Marcus Harris (20) will resume on day two with Australia 1-61, needing just 125 more runs to take a first-innings lead while England need a minor miracle just to get back to being competitive in this Test.

Already holding a 2-0 lead in the series after smashing the tourists in Brisbane and Adelaide, the Australians are likely to power on to a third straight drubbing and wrap up the retention of the Ashes urn in the shortest possible time frame with this game potentially over as quickly as day three unless England start to show some backbone.

Their batting was poor and their bowling was only slightly better but they still continued their recent nasty habit of overstepping the mark to gift Australia runs they can’t afford to concede.

English great Sir Ian Botham was fuming with their lack of discipline in giving away extras and bowling too short.

“There/s no excuse for a professional cricketer to bowl no-balls. None whatsoever,” he said on Seven commentary. “This is the Third Test not the 30th but they’re still making the same mistakes.”

Veteran opener David Warner was the only Australian wicket to fall in the 16-over spell before stumps when he was caught in the gully off James Anderson for a breezy 38 off 42 deliveries.

Root top-scored with an even 50 as England were bowled out for 185 in the 66th over after being sent in by returning home skipper Pat Cummins.

England made changes to their batting and bowling units but it made little to no difference as they slumped to 2-15 then 4-82 and 6-128 as wickets fell at regular intervals.

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Cummins made a triumphant return after being forced to miss the Adelaide Test due to being a COVID-19 close contact, bagging the first three wickets to back up his decision to bowl first.

He elicited a nick from Haseeb Hameed to send him on his way for a duck and then removed his new opening partner, Zak Crawley, who had been brought in after Rory Burns was dropped.

Crawley fell to a Green catch in the gully, bringing Root to the crease yet again with plenty of shine on the new ball.

Dawid Malan joined Root for a 48-run partnership, which would be England’s best union for the day, but fell for 13 when he nicked Cummins to Warner at first slip.

Root’s hundred hoodoo in Australia continued when he made his ninth half-century Down Under but was out with no further runs added via a snick to keeper Alex Carey from Mitchell Starc.

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Jonny Bairstow, in for the axed Ollie Pope, tried to counterattack alongside Ben Stokes but the star all-rounder’s wretched tour continued when Green induced a cut straight to Nathan Lyon at point on 25.

Jos Butter, who won many lost admirers when he lasted more than 200 deliveries to nearly save England from defeat in the Second Test, threw his wicket away by lofting Lyon to debutant paceman Scott Boland in the deep for just three.

Boland snared his first Test wicket a short time later when he trapped Mark Wood in front for six and after a nervous wait when England referred it to the third umpire, the original on-field verdict from Paul Reiffel was upheld.

The 32-year-old Indigenous seamer was chosen ahead of Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, who shone in last week’s Test but were left out of this match after they pulled up sore.

First-choice paceman Josh Hazlewood is still not ready to make his return from a side strain but is looming as a likely inclusion for the Fourth Test on his home ground in Sydney.

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Hazlewood was on hand to present Boland with his baggy green cap prior to the start of play with the Victorian becoming the 463rd male cricketer in Australian Test history.

After Bairstow fell for 35 when he popped up a sharp chance to Green off Starc in the gully, Lyon cleaned up the tail of Jack Leach and Ollie Robinson to complete a thoroughly lopsided stoush on Boxing Day.

The fact that the best shot of England’s innings, a straight six off Lyon, came via the bat of their No.10 in Leach summed up the day for the beleaguered visitors.

They dropped Burns after he scored just 51 runs from four innings and Pope, who had 48 from the same number of trips to the crease. But such is the paucity of options in this brittle touring squad, their replacements have been sadly out of form – Crawley is averaging 11.2 from eight Tests in 2021 while Bairstow’s record is only marginally better with 386 runs from nine matches at 25.73.

Wood was easily England’s most threatening bowler in the final session, underlining the absurdity of resting their quickest seamer for the previous Test. He and Leach replaced Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad but you get the feeling that any changes England make for the rest of the series will do little to prevent what looms as a likely 5-0 whitewash.

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