England captain Joe Root promised to fight in the Boxing Day Test. But someone forgot to send his teammates the memo as the visitors were rolled for just 185 on day one of the Third Test. See all the good and bad from today’s play.
WHAT A DECK
For years the MCG has been maligned for being boring and bland, as well as a batter’s paradise.
Well that’s no longer the case and it’s all thanks to former WACA Ground curator Matt Page.
With plenty of cloud cover around and 11mm of grass on the deck, Australian skipper Pat Cummins had no hesitation to bowl when he won the toss and it paid off early.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
For the first time in 20 Test matches an Australian captain won the toss and elected to bowl on home soil.
And while it might seem an obvious decision for the number one Test bowler in the world in skipper Pat Cummins, the big fast bowler ensured it was the right one.
Cummins took a wicket with just his fifth ball, dismissing Haseeb Hameed (0), before knocking over Zak Crawley (12) and Dawid Malan (14) all before lunch.
Cummins became the leading wicket-taker for the series, despite missing the second Test in Adelaide because of a COVID-19 scare.
Everything Cummins does at the moment, except for dining choices, seems to be gold.
Marcus Harris has survived to stumps at the MCG, despite a nasty finger injury threatening his innings.
The Victorian, playing just his second Test at his home ground, has been under pressure to hold his place at the top of Australia’s order but he survived a 16-over barrage to finish day one.
Despite losing fellow opener David Warner (38), Harris remained calm to see Australia to stumps trailing by just 124 runs.
But Harris didn’t get back to the rooms unscathed, after copping a nasty blow from Ben Stokes to his left index finger.
TOP ORDER WOES
England’s struggles to find a solid opening partnership have existed since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
But at least back then their biggest problem was just finding one half of a partnership, with Alastair Cook being one of the world’s best batters.
Now England cannot find two who can survive the new ball, with Australia taking full advantage at the MCG.
Pat Cummins sent Haseeb Hameed back to the pavilion for his second consecutive duck in just the second over, before a positive looking Zak Crawley was dismissed in the eighth over for just 12.
To put it all in perspective, for the fourth time in five innings, first-drop Dawid Malan was at the crease by the 14th delivery.
England need to find some openers and fast, or Test cricket is just going to be a slog for this team.
As Australia prepared to bowl under clouds, one of the nation’s best fast bowlers no doubt sat with his feet up ready to watch the Test unfold.
James Pattinson retired from international cricket at the start of the summer after a career riddled with injury, but with the injuries to fast bowlers this summer, you have to wonder if he made the right decision.
Australian debutant Scott Boland was wearing Pattinson’s number 19 on the field, but did not bowl with the pace or intimidation of his predecessor, especially early when he was too short in conditions where seam and swing was exceptional.
Pattinson has 18 wickets at an average of just 16 from three Boxing Day Test matches and he no doubt would have put the fear of god into some English batters.
He also has 10 wickets in two Sheffield Shield matches at just 19.
Maybe James made a hasty decision.
Joe Root was yet to score a century in Australia and the drought will continue for at least another innings after the England skipper failed to capitalise on another good start.
Root scored his ninth half century down under in a solid innings that looked as if he was in complete control.
But as he has for much of the series, Root played at a delivery he could have well left, this time off the bowling of Mitch Starc, with a knick going straight into the gloves of Alex Carey.
Root may be one of the best batters in the world, but right now he has a giant monkey on his back and it doesn’t look like letting go anytime soon.
England were dismissed for just 185, but it wasn’t all the Australian bowlers that were to thank.
Joe Root was not the only batter to throw away his wicket, with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler playing horrific shots to lose their wicket.
Stokes spooned a Cam Green delivery to point as he tried to cut a ball not short enough over slips.
Then just before tea, Buttler skipped down the wicket, only to hit the ball down the throat of Scott Boland at deep mid-wicket.
From three of their senior batters, it was not a good look for the English side.