England’s Ashes implosion reached catastrophic proportions as three of their senior batters delivered Australia late Christmas gifts in the form of easy dismissals at the MCG.
Captain Joe Root top scored again for his side, which were bowled out just after tea for a miserable 185 after counterpart Pat Cummins won the toss and sent them into bat.
Australia finished the day at 1-61 in reply as they look to retain the Ashes before the New Year.
Cummins destroyed England’s top order before lunch by catching the edge of Haseeb Hameed (0), Zak Crawley (12) and Dawid Malan (14) on a green pitch and under overcast conditions.
The tourists became their own worst enemies in the second session though, with all three wickets in that period coming from poor shots.
Root started the rot when he edged a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc just after passing 50, continuing his century drought on Australian soil.
Match-winner Ben Stokes (25) spooned a simple catch to Nathan Lyon at point of WA allrounder Cam Green as he searched desperately for some form.
Struggling wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (3) completed the trifecta when he fell on the stroke of tea after dancing down the wicket to Lyon, only to find debutant Scott Boland at the deep square leg boundary.
When a fighting 35 from Jonny Bairstow was ended by a poorly judged duck from a not-so-short Starc delivery, England’s innings was inevitably going to come to a quick end quickly because of their long tail.
It left former Australian captain Ricky Ponting to scorch England’s poor selections of their batters.
“What we’ve seen with England when they’ve come to Australia is they have underskilled batters,” Ponting told 7Cricket.
“They’re skilled enough in their own conditions, but outside of that they, they just simply haven’t had the skill or technique to survive out here in Australia on different pitches.”
Australia quickly set about chasing down the first innings deficit, with David Warner (38) and under-fire opener Marcus Harris (20 not out) scoring freely.
The pair looked the goods until the return of England veteran seamer James Anderson got the breakthrough, with Warner lured into a drive only to find Crawley at gully.
Harris and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (0 not out) successfully got through the remaining few overs to see Australia 124 behind heading into day two.