England crashed to 185 all out on day one of the third Test on Sunday, leaving their Ashes dreams on the brink of ruin in the face of a relentless Australian attack.
After heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the visitors must win in Melbourne to keep the five-Test series alive, with Australia only needing a draw to retain the urn as holders.
But those hopes took a near-fatal blow as Australia ripped through England’s flimsy batting, with only captain Joe Root (50) and Jonny Bairstow (35) showing resistance.
Australian skipper Pat Cummins, back after missing the second Adelaide Test because he was in Covid isolation, and spin king Nathan Lyon both took 3-36.
Australia then added to England’s pain by negotiating 16 overs to be 61 for one at stumps, trailing by only 124 with Marcus Harris not-out 20 despite taking a nasty blow to the finger, and nightwatchman Lyon yet to score.
But on another bad day for England they did bag the big wicket of David Warner, who raced to 38 off 42 balls before sending a thick edge off Jimmy Anderson to Zak Crawley at gully.
“As a bowling group we know we are not going to give up any soft overs. You need to take 20 wickets to win the game and that’s our motive,” said Australia’s Scott Boland, who made his debut and took the wicket of Mark Wood. “It’s a great attack to be a part of.
After batting collapses and poor bowling in the first two Tests, Root read his players the riot act — seemingly to little effect. They have failed to score more than 297 in five innings so far.
“Obviously the toss didn’t go our way, we’d also have loved to bowl in that first session,” said Bairstow.
“Yes, we’re still looking for that big score. We’ve got to get stronger and tougher with our dismissals, we know that.
“But we’ve seen that the pitch offered plenty (for the bowlers) today and hopefully we turn up in the morning and put pressure on to get some early inroads.
He hit Lyon to Boland, the first Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia since Jason Gillespie.
Boland then snared Wood before Bairstow gloved Starc to Green and Australia mopped up the tail.