Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 25, 2006

Australia extend the humiliation

Australia 9 for 602 dec and 181 for 1 (Ponting 51*, Langer 88*) lead England 157 (Bell 50, McGrath 6-50) by 626 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
How they were out - England
How they were out - Australia

Glenn McGrath wrecked England's first innings with six wickets, including the prize scalp of Kevin Pietersen
© Getty Images
Glenn McGrath announced his return to Test cricket with the superb figures of 6 for 50, and Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer added an unbeaten stand of 113, as England's cricketers were stripped of their dignity on an extraordinary day's cricket that verged on the sadistic. Having been bundled out for a woeful 157, a deficit of 445, England's morale was so bleak that, with a full 45 overs of the day's play remaining, a three-day finish was a very real possibility. But Ponting was having none of it, and in a decision that echoed Mark Taylor's move on this same ground in 1994-95, he opted instead to send England's frazzled players back out into the field for another dose of chastisement.

The tactic had been amply justified by the close, as Australia ground their way to 1 for 181, a massive lead of 626. Ponting himself was still there on 51, having passed 9000 runs in Test cricket, and all England had to show for another 40 overs of hard labour was the run-out of Matthew Hayden. As they trooped off the field after their third humiliation in a row, it was hard to believe that this was the same body of men who had retrieved the Ashes in such memorable fashion in 2005. As many as nine of the players on each team were present in that match at The Oval, but the gulf between mindsets could not have been more acute.

Since their arrival Down Under, England have been bewildered by the ferocity of Australia's resolve, and today no-one typified that determination better than McGrath. All year long he has been claiming that, at the age of 36, he is in the best shape of his life, but a ten-month absence to care for his sick wife Jane, and an unconvincing performance on the flat tracks of India last month, had the naysayers believing otherwise. Today, McGrath did as champions do, and let his bowling do the talking.

Flushed with confidence after two cheap scalps last night, McGrath tore through England's bewildered batting, teasing and tormenting England's outside edges in precisely the manner that England themselves had failed to do at any stage of the match. He grabbed his first of the day when Kevin Pietersen shouldered arms unwisely to one that jagged back and rapped the pads, and after watching Brett Lee dismiss Andrew Flintoff for a third-ball duck, McGrath returned to mop up the tail.

Flintoff's dismissal was an especially dismal moment for England. All through the first two day's play, he had been a lone pillar of strength, but suddenly, with his side in disarray at 4 for 78, he was on an absolute hiding to nothing. After surviving two deliveries, he nibbled at a third from Lee, and Gilchrist completed the catch that sent the crowd at the Gabba delirious.

Brett Lee played his part in England's demise by removing Andrew Flintoff for a duck
© Getty Images
England rallied insofar as a team in such dire straits can rally, with Ian Bell confirming that he is a cricketer reborn since his harrowing experience in the 2005 Ashes. He had to ride his luck and back his judgment during Lee's opening salvo, which included an edge through third man off an angled bat, but he had enough chutzpah to see off both his nemeses, McGrath and Shane Warne, whom he greeted with quick feet and an focussed mind. He brought up his third fifty against the Aussies with a tickled single to leg, but unfortunately for England he was unable to push on, as Clark located one of the cracks on a widening pitch, and Ponting at second slip took a fine catch diving to his right.

Geraint Jones had by this stage perished, trapped on the crease by a full-length inswinger from McGrath, and England's innings folded in an embarrassing heap, with only Ashley Giles provided any token resistance in a defiantly chancy 24. Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison both fell for ducks, caught behind off Clark and McGrath respectively, and it was McGrath who wrapped up proceedings when Giles retreated to leg and top-edged a short ball to point. As he led his side off the pitch, McGrath clutched at his back in a mock display of old age. So far in this Test, Dad's Army has been doing okay.

It got no better for England as Ponting opted to give them another stint in the field. In theory it could have been a blessing in disguise for an attack that is woefully short of match fitness, but Hayden reverted to his best bullying mode to ensure there were no plus-points to be gained from the new ball. James Anderson, who has arguably endured an even worse match than the hapless Harmison, was beasted for three fours in a row, and though he gained his revenge with a pin-point run-out it was scant consolation. By the close even their direct hits were ricocheting for overthrows, as Australia marched on and on and on. It is more than just a beating that England are taking in this match, it is an evisceration.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo