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UK View: 'Broken' England's 'full spectrum of ineptitude' on show as Aussies storm home in 'cruel, agonising' finale

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27th December, 2021
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A tumultuous final hour pitched Australia within touching distance of retaining the Ashes after a grisly day for the beleaguered England cricketers at the baying MCG and the UK media pack is resigned to the series coup de grace.

“We are only halfway through, but already a five-Test tour has become a one-way ticket to perdition,” The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown flourished.

“Even when set against their whitewashed predecessors, this England crop are delivering the full spectrum of ineptitude.

“It would be difficult to script a grislier day than the fate that befell England here. Every time you think they cannot possibly dig themselves any deeper, they find fresh ways to confound. 

“As England explored the extremes of their own incompetence, it was the final hour of this second day in Melbourne that held up the clearest mirror to the malaise.”

Nick Hoult, also writing in The Telegraph, said it was a final hour that all but sealed the fate of the Ashes.

“It was an hour that put Australia within touching distance of retaining the Ashes and a reminder of what an electrifying sport Test cricket can be when fast bowlers as good as Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc get a scent of English blood,” Hoult wrote.

“They hurled themselves at the top order, carried every step of the way by fans beating on the ad boards and plastic chairs at the MCG, to undo all the spade work by James Anderson and leave England reeling at 31 for four, 51 behind Australia and any faint hopes of winning this game all but extinguished.”

Mitchell Starc celebrates.

Mitchell Starc celebrates after dismissing Zak Crawley during day two of the third Ashes Test. (Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

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The Daily Mail’s Paul Newman said English Test was broken.

“It took just one tumultuous hour and 12 brutal, probing and pulsating overs at the end of the second day to emphasise that – and, even more pertinently, the domestic red-ball system has been broken by a white-ball obsessed ECB,” Newman said.

“Yet there will still have to be casualties from an away Ashes disaster that, barring any third day miracle at Melbourne from Joe Root and Ben Stokes, has been even worse than the last two series in Australia. And as they ended 5-0 and 4-0 that is quite something.

“It is hard to see how Root can carry on as captain once this becomes his third Ashes series without success in charge even if there is a total absence of alternatives.”
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The Sun’s John Etheridge saw nothing but a “humiliating defeat” looming for England at the MCG.

“England’s batting was in ruins once more and they are surely crashing towards another humiliating defeat,” he lamented.

“As for the Ashes? Well, their chances of regaining the little urn disappeared a long time ago.

“By the close of day two of the Third Test, England were in a state of shock with the scoreboard reading 31-4 – still 51 runs short of avoiding an innings defeat.

“So another – and pretty much predictable – batting collapse added to the anxiety of the COVID outbreak sweeping through England’s camp.”

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Former England captain Nasser Hussain paid tribute to England’s bowling talisman James Anderson for a herculean bowling effort in Australia’s first innings.

“It would have been chaos in the camp before play, the will we or won’t we be playing, and on the back of being two down and getting outplayed again on the first day of the third Test I thought they showed a lot of character,” he said.

“That’s a word I have always associated with Jimmy Anderson. He has always had character and you could tell from his comments in the media this week that he was bristling at the questioning of the seamers and their lengths at Adelaide.

“He was entitled to bristle because, if you ask me what the problem with English red-ball cricket has been over the last couple of years, I would not say Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson.

“So Anderson, at 39, had to go out there at the MCG yet again and bowl with superb consistency and control to put batters under pressure all the time and dismiss world-class players like Steve Smith. Jimmy did what he has always done.

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“For an hour England were subjected to the fiercest examinations by world-class bowling from Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc in particular and the MCG day two audience were treated to great cricketing theatre. To see the way that crowd reacted, especially when Starc was on a hat-trick, to the Australian performance was incredible.”

Mike Atherton, in The Times, was captivated by the final electrifying hour of cricket as Australia seized control of the third Test.

“It was a magnificent end to the second day’s play; at once, dramatic, cruel, agonising and theatrical,” Athers waxed.

“A great ground and a sizeable crowd witnessing one team straining every sinew to cut the head off the snake — the term West Indies would use when discussing the pressure exerted on an opposition captain — and kill the game; the other barely clinging to the lifeboat in the stormiest of seas imaginable. Nothing in the game comes close to these moments in Test cricket.

“The final hour, dramatic and tumultuous as it was and potentially devastating as it was to England’s cause, did not reflect on what was, until that point, a good day for England, their best of the series. It had taken 11 days, but finally there was some positive news”.

Ali Martin, in the Guardian, painted a similar scenario as Australia fought back late in the day.

“A limp demise to 185 all out the previous day was never going to be easy to overcome but an 82-run first-innings deficit hinted at a possible contest boiling up,” Martin wrote.

“By stumps England’s fortunes were once again nosediving with a degree of familiarity at 31 for four; compelling viewing but ultimately a reversion to the one-sided nature of this series.”

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“First came Mitchell Starc, thundering in from the Great Southern Stand End and knocking over Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan in the space of two balls, then Scott Boland, on his debut, vapourising Haseeb Hameed and the nightwatchman Jack Leach in the space of just three to send his home crowd berserk.”

The BBC’s Ffion Wynne described Cummins and Starc as having a “gladiatorial presence” inside the MCG coliseum.

“England’s batting has come under scrutiny in every innings of the series so far. But while their first-innings 185 all out was woeful, with several batters gifting their wickets away, Monday’s late collapse was very different.

“Starc and Cummins were a gladiatorial presence – the Melbourne Cricket Ground their coliseum.

“They had the ball swinging, bouncing and seaming and the inexperienced Hameed and newly-recalled Crawley stood little chance.

“It was ruthless, hostile, and often uncomfortable. It was also compelling viewing in front of a raucous Melbourne crowd.”

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