Scott Boland stamped himself as the greatest ‘horses for courses’ selection in Ashes history when he destroyed England’s second innings to deliver a 3-0 Ashes triumph at the MCG.
The laid-back Victorian paceman, who was a shock selection for his debut despite being the most prolific bowler at the ground this season, claimed an astonishing 6-7 in England’s pathetic second innings of 68 all out, giving Australia victory by an innings and 14 runs.
If any one moment summed up England’s Ashes surrender it was the sight of their captain Joe Root copping another sickening blow flush on the box before Boland, named man of the match, ripped out Root and five of his teammates in an incredible display of pace bowling.
Root has been on another level from his floundering fellow batsmen, and he top-scored with 28 again in an embarrassing team display.
But it was the Australian pacemen, led by local fairytale story Boland, who kept hammering the tourists where it hurts to wrap up the series 3-0 with two matches to play.
England, with four COVID cases in their extended party, and two dead rubbers to play must be at the lowest ebb of any Ashes touring team through the competition’s long history.
Boland, an MCG specialist who now has 101 wickets at the ground, has put the pressure on selectors to retain him when the series moves to Sydney from January 4.
“I want England to do well but sometimes you see something very special,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan on Fox Cricket. “He’s 32. He never expected to play for the Aussies, now he’s got 6-7 at his home venue with all the crowd on his feet singing his name.
“That’s why we love sport. It brings up these great stories.”
“He’ll be so proud – he’ll be in shock but so proud to wear that baggy green in an Ashes series,” said Mike Hussey, who spoke of the great passion Victorians had for their local heroes.
“They’re so parochial down here for their players and you can just hear it with the roar that goes up when one of their players come on to bowl.
“They’ve been starved of those heroes since Warnie, Dean Jones and big Merv Hughes. Now they’ve found a hero – someone they can cheer for. What a performance. The amount of attention he is going to get over the next few days…”
Root, who endured two agonising blows to the groin region in Adelaide, was on 23 when heuffered another when Pat Cummins blasted a ball past his bat, and he barely regained his composure on a day where he needed to deliver a first Ashes ton down under.
— England’s Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) December 28, 2021
England had already received a major gut punch just before Root was left writhing in pain.
England, mortally wounded during a frantic final hour on day 2, limped back to the crease at 4-31 on Tuesday, still 51 in arrears of Australia’s first innings total.
The most optimistic England fans will have held hopes that Ben Stokes and Root could have forged a meaningful fightback, but Stokes continued to disappoint on a tour where he was a late call up but charged with bringing a competitive edge to threaten Australia’s favouritism.
Mitchell Starc removed the England allrounder with a beauty when Stokes was 11 and only 15 had been added to the overnight score. He was unable to deal with a ball that nipped back at him from outside off stump and clean bowled him.
Stokes’ contribution has been miserable – just 101 runs at a touch under 17 and 4-249 at 62.25.
Australia’s fielding has been elite through the series but Cameron Green put down Jonny Bairstow with the total on 5-57 and Bairstow on five. Bairstow smashed a cut sharply to Green in the gully off Boland and the chance went begging.
But Boland wasn’t to be denied and removed the batsman in the same over, getting a ball to nip back and hit him on the pads – desperately close to the line of off stump. The DRS delivered an umpire’s call back to Paul Reiffel and Boland had 3-5 off 1.5 overs.
That became four wickets when he dismissed Root, the captain and then he added two more before Green wrapped up the match one hour and 21 minutes into day three.
This series has been diabolical for England and Vaughan said he hoped the authorites back home used the staggering nature of the defeat to start “honest conversations.”
“It’s been a problem for a few years in the Test match team, the lack of preparation, the selectorial mistakes,” said Vaughan.
“Are we playing four day cricket at the right time, do we have the right ball, are we giving our next generation the right opportunity to prepare for success at this level – I don’t think England are.”