Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2010

Dominant England bring Ashes triumph nearer

209

England 0 for 157 (Cook 80*, Strauss 64*) lead Australia 98 (Tremlett 4-26, Anderson 4-44) by 59 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It was meant to be Boxing Day, not Boxing Australia Around the Ears Day. Within three sessions of complete England dominance at the MCG, they moved to within touching distance of retaining the Ashes by dismissing Australia for 98 and passing their total with no wickets down, leaving Ricky Ponting requiring a late Christmas miracle to avoid leading Australia to three Ashes series failures.

Chris Tremlett and James Anderson collected four wickets each, backing up Andrew Strauss's decision to send the hosts in, before Strauss and Alastair Cook showed that with discipline, batting wasn't that hard on a pitch with a little juice in it. The day could not possibly have gone better for England, who finished at 0 for 157 with Strauss on 64, Cook on 80, a hefty first-innings advantage in prospect and a 2-1 series lead on the horizon.

For Australia, it was up there with the opening day at Headingley against Pakistan this year, in terms of disastrous cricketing dates. Back then they chose to bat and managed only 88, but this time there was one slight difference - their dismal performance will probably cost them the Ashes. Not since 1936 had they scored a lower Ashes total at home, and that was in the days of uncovered pitches.

It took Tremlett, Anderson and Tim Bresnan less than two sessions to run through the order as they hit consistent lines and kept the runs tight. They also exposed Australia's team-wide inability to handle seam movement and swing, which is no great revelation but could not be ignored in front of 84,345 fans on the biggest day in the Australian cricket calendar.

Every batsman fell to an edge caught behind the wicket, six to the wicketkeeper Matt Prior, two to slips and two to gully. Too many men played with hard hands away from their bodies, and they struggled to work out which deliveries to leave and which ones to play. The questions that the batting coach Justin Langer must consider surround not only technique, but also judgment.

England picked up four wickets before the first break and in one particularly impressive patch they collected 3 for 0, as Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson all failed to make solid contact with the face of the bat. A rain delay had extended lunch by nearly an hour, but even that wasn't enough to help the Australians survive until the scheduled tea break.

But England's bowlers certainly earned their wickets, especially the early strikes. Shane Watson was dropped twice on 0, as Paul Collingwood at slip and Kevin Pietersen at gully denied Anderson an early breakthrough. It was a sign of things to come, and Watson had only made 5 when he was surprised by sharp bounce from Tremlett and fended a loopy catch to Pietersen.

Soon afterwards, Phillip Hughes (16) tried to cover-drive and edged to gully to hand Bresnan his first Ashes wicket, and without further addition to the score the Australians also lost Ricky Ponting. Again it was the rising ball from Tremlett that did the job, and this one nipped away significantly off the pitch, so much so that Ponting, on 10, did well to even get bat on ball as his edge flew to second slip.

Australia's recent saviour, Michael Hussey, joined the procession in the last over before lunch, when Anderson produced a pearler that moved away from Hussey and found a thin edge through to Prior. Then came the rain, an early and prolonged lunch, and after the break the dismissals got a bit softer, as Australia's middle order failed to exercise due caution.

The hosts want Steven Smith in the side for his energy and all-round talent, but as a Test No. 6 his technique needs a lot of work, and all it took was a probing delivery outside off stump from Anderson to draw an edge behind when Smith had 6. The top scorer Michael Clarke, who made 20, also wafted outside off at a ball he could have left, and edged behind off Anderson.

And 5 for 77 soon became 8 for 77 when Haddin drove at Bresnan and gave Strauss a catch at first slip, before Johnson tickled a catch to Prior off Anderson. A few late runs came via Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle before Tremlett finished off the tail to finish with 4 for 26, a much deserved return after he was the best of the bowlers early, extracting bounce from a pitch expected to be as stodgy as leftover Christmas pudding.

By the time Australia bowled, it looked like any spice in the pudding had lost its kick. In reality, they just didn't bowl well enough, while Cook and Strauss defended solidly and left the right balls, also ticking the score along by chasing the bad deliveries, like an uppish cut to the vacant third-man area from Cook when he was given width.

That Strauss and Cook both registered half-centuries before stumps was the perfect finale for the visitors, and Cook was already within sight of his third hundred of the series. Australia's four-man pace attack had little impact - Michael Beer was made 12th man again - and by the close, Smith had tossed up a few overs of unthreatening legbreaks, including one that was slog-swept almost for six by Cook.

Smith wasn't born last time England won the Ashes in Australia, in 1986-87. He's about to see it happen first-hand.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 5wombats on December 28, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    @Marcio; interesting to see that you have been posting on this conversation. Why don't you come out and give us your description of reality in current conversations? Or have you "not got anything positive to say"? Aus have been crushed out of sight at the MCG. Perspective, yes perspective. If, by some divine miracle 2-2 is achieved by Australia it'll be the oddest draw in the history of Ashes series. I saw a lot of one-sided Ashes series during the 90's and this is another one. "The key: get silly ego out of the way, trust ability, conditions and intuition". Agreed.

  • westindiancanadian on December 27, 2010, 18:33 GMT

    Shame on you Ponting for disrespecting the game that you made your living by. Shame on the ICCf or not fining him more. Shame on international cricket for not introducing UDRS earlier in cricket as Australia got away with too much for too long. Sadly the world will remember Ponting for his unsportsmanlike actions, his immaturity and cheating. His batting will not be the first thing that come to mind.

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 11:05 GMT

    I'm a Notts and England supporter. As such I have followed David Hussey for many years. His first class average is over 55 and he always inspires confidence. He's now 33 years old. For how much longer can Australia afford to ignore him?

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 10:26 GMT

    If it was any other team (most-likely a sub continnent team) harsh penalties would have occured... Its just unfair seeing australia and england and a few other teams always getting away with plenty of things during cricket.. for example this incident with ricky ponting and when stuart broad threw the ball at Haider and it hit him and nothing happened.. its just totally unfair.. no point of watching cricket if there just mistreating teams for example pakistan.. really really sick of it!

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 8:48 GMT

    I agree, that the Respect towards Opponents, Umpires and Game is Most important and the AUS are NOT HAVING IT. ( put it in other words.. Some are exceptions ). Every decision they want has to come their way.. else fighting.. this looks too stupid. Ponting MUST MUST be BANNED .. Siddle Must be banned.. and few could also be fined. We have to keep the respect for Decisions from umpires. The Joke is, this Ponting says, captains should accept the words of the Fielders in Catches... Its really funny, this fellow will not listen to umpire on the field, 3rd umpire... but will belive in fielders :) Joke Joke...

  • crcketfan0 on December 27, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    The lack of respect towards the game, opponants and the role of umpires regularly shown by the Australians was evident again this afternoon in a disgraceful act of arguing an unsuccessful appeal with the umpires by Ponting. Peter Siddle joined in the intimidation from nowhere to add more insult to the incident. There's no way any captain and player anywhere in the world would get away atleast without a couple of game ban, but it'll be interesting to see what action will be taken by the officials against this disgraceful act by Ponting and Siddle! The millions of little kids wanting to grow up to be like their heros will follow the Pontings & Siddles, that's why it's important that these to should get the maximum possible panelty for their behaviour in bringing the game to disrepute infront of the millions of Cricket fans!

  • praume2001 on December 27, 2010, 4:03 GMT

    @mitcher...there's no comparison between Australia and India at the moment... and this is not India's best side still...bcoz we dont hv bowling attack...coming back to the point of India doing badly in SA...firstly we dont hv home advantage...second we r known to b bad travellers especially in SA (the image which we r changing)... thirdly Aussies were not batting on absolute green top with overcast conditions twice consecutively.. fourth SA has the best bowling attack currently unlike england's which is also good... and last but not the least we r improving frm our last score of 136 and didnt got our a**kicked at 98...our captain dosent boast of 5-0 victory..we like to b realistic and dont dream of impossible...wht we knw is to give a good fight and play spiritedly... by the way ur whole team managed just two runs more of sachin's total international centuries...well this time they managed to surpass sachin ...well congrats for tht... now u can chuckle or two...

  • Marcio on December 27, 2010, 1:14 GMT

    I must add that England bowled perfectly well, and then batted perfectly well according to the conditions. That's the application and technique part. In response to a few of the folks here who don't understand why all my predictions for outcomes of games are right, and why most others are wrong: it is simple. The reason why both experts and laymen are so bad at picking the results of games is because they rely too much on immediate emotionality - the excitement of success, the disappointment of failure. I said AUS would win in Perth straight after being thrashed in Adelaide. I was right. I said England would win in melbourne, despite just having been thrashed in Perth. Right agaion I predict AUS will win in Sydney. I made these predictions four games ago, and immidiate form and conditions make no difference to me. The key: get silly ego out of the way, trust ability, conditions and intuition (which is not the same as emotionality, and dare I say, chest beating and doom and gloom).

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    Well, Well how history repeats itself.....after an era of domination the Australian run is truly over.............this is very similar to the West Indian Era of Domination........hope this time something is they learn from the mistakes of the past

  • swarzi on December 27, 2010, 0:04 GMT

    jnrmorris, I'm sorry. Bringing back Buchanan would make no difference now - this is a new cricket dispensation. There is new technology to indicate when people are 'OUT or 'NOT OUT'. Hence, the Australians cannot bat five times in an innings anymore, nor can they pick up catchesl from the ground and shout successfully for appeals. The problem too is that some of their cricket seniors (not Ian Chappell for sure), but Bill Lawry the chief culprit made them feel that they were so good when they were only mediocre players. I am longing to hear him saying, 'Ricky Pontin is the best batsman in the worldd, in all forms of cricket'! Or 'Mitchell Johnson is the best all rounder in the world' after scoring one centurt and taking a few wickets!

  • No featured comments at the moment.