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  • Jason Regan

Australia on the brink as England fold again

England needs a Christmas miracle to save them with Australia poised to retain the Ashes after a dominant first day of the Boxing Day Ashes Test in Melbourne.

Pat Cummins' dramatic start to life as captain looks poised to earn Australia the Ashes inside three Tests after he set up a dominant Boxing Day for the hosts. On return from a COVID-enforced rest in Adelaide, Cummins claimed three wickets in the opening session before the tourists were all out for 185.

Australia then exploded out of the blocks, with an assertive 38 from David Warner helping them to stumps at 1-61 and with the game firmly in their control. Needing a win in the third Test to stay in the series, England require a miracle to fight their way back into the match and series that has spiralled out of control in the past two-and-a-half weeks.

And despite missing Adelaide, much of that is owing to both themselves and Australia's new skipper in Cummins. In one-and-a-half Tests as captain, Cummins has 10 wickets at 12.5 after being flung into the captaincy after Tim Paine's shock resignation.

And after watching last week's Adelaide Test from his couch after being a close contact of COVID-19, Cummins and his bowlers made a point to bowl full on a green wicket and was rewarded with a haul of 3-36.

"We tried to keep it really full in the first session," fellow quick and debutant Scott Boland said.
"Their batters were pretty conscious of wanting to leave the ball, so we tried to keep attacking them as much as we could. 
"(We were) judging ourselves on how much we could make them play."

Cummins claimed his first scalp with just his fifth delivery when one nipped away from Haseeb Hameed and drew his edge for a 10-ball duck. Called in to replace the struggling Rory Burns, Zak Crawley fell to Cummins on 12 when he edged the quick to gully.

Cummins then broke the back of England right on lunch, breaking a 48-run stand between Joe Root and Dawid Malan when he got the latter edging for 14. From there, the resistance from the tourists was meek.

Both Root and Ben Stokes threw their wickets away, caught to balls they need not have played at outside the off stump in what has been a bugbear for the tourists this summer.

Root's innings was symbolic of his tour, out for 50 to Mitchell Starc when he was caught behind the wicket for the fifth straight innings.

Stokes' dismissal came when he tried to uppercut Cameron Green over the slips on 25, but only aided the Australian allrounder's reputation as a giant-killer by hitting him to point. Jos Buttler also went in careless fashion, caught on the legside boundary when he tried to take on Nathan Lyon (3-36) and found the only man out in the deep.

And while Bairstow put up some fight with 35 before a Starc ball followed him and caught him on the gloves, nothing could be done to save England's day.

"It's a day we will look back on and probably reassess and next time potentially take a different option," Bairstow said.
"I don't think you can blame individual's going out and playing the way in which they foresee the best way. 
"The execution of those wasn't there today."

Root's men did have some late joy when Warner was out edging Jimmy Anderson, but Marcus Harris managed through a crucial hour in his career to go to stumps unbeaten on 16.


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