How could one describe England’s performance in Australia so far? It’s nothing but dismal, pathetic and frustrating! They have lost nine Test matches this year equaling Bangladesh’s below-par record almost two decades ago and the way England lost the Boxing Day Test match, deserves stern action against those who have been performing badly consistently. Australia deserve all the credits but they cannot but thank the poor display of their arch-rivals.
Australia retain the #Ashes ?
They take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series after a scintillating display in Melbourne ?#AUSvENG | #WTC23 | https://t.co/QKpJv6yy6n pic.twitter.com/nbzHqO184m
— ICC (@ICC) December 28, 2021
England had made four changes to their side that lost by 275 runs in Adelaide to concede a 2-0 lead in the series, but again their batters struggled as Pat Cummins ripped through the top order by lunch and Nathan Lyon matched his captain’s haul of 3 for 36 as England succumbed for under 200 runs for the 12th time this year.
In between, Cameron Green reaped rewards for a suffocating four-over spell and Scott Boland claimed a wicket on Test debut while also taking two catches to have a further hand in England’s demise before a Boxing Day crowd of 57,100.
Some vintage James Anderson bowling kept England in the contest on an eventful second day of the third Test at the MCG, only for the tourists’ brittle batting to falter in the face of a devastating blitz by Australia’s quicks which put the hosts on the verge of sealing the series.
Debutant Scott Boland and Mitchell Starc claimed two wickets each to crush England during a scintillating final hour and undo the effect of Anderson’s four-wicket haul, which had fleetingly given the tourists hope.
The ??????? moment ?#AUSvENG | #WTC23 | #Ashes pic.twitter.com/sudvwH9GdY
— ICC (@ICC) December 28, 2021
With their warm-up routine thrown into chaos by four positive Covid tests among team staff and their families which delayed their departure for the ground – and the start by half an hour – England showed the sort of bottle that was sorely missing as Australia romped to a 2-0 series lead to wrest back some control with the ball.
Cleared to play after passing lateral flow Tests in the morning, the England players were scheduled to undergo PCR testing at the close of play, with the match allowed to proceed in the meantime.
And it was the 39-year-old Anderson, who made his international debut at the same ground in an ODI in 2002, leading the way with two particularly miserly spells which yielded the important wickets of Steve Smith and Marcus Harris, who top-scored with 76, either side of lunch.
Australia were bowled out for 267, a first-innings lead of 82 runs. But England’s top order had no answers as Starc claimed two wickets in as many balls to put them 2 for 7.
As if the pressure on England captain Joe Root wasn’t cranked up enough, he barely survived Starc’s hat-trick ball, an unplayable delivery beating his outside edge.
England have a half-century of ducks in Test cricket in 2021 ? pic.twitter.com/jrW5W5Bqsa
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 26, 2021
By the close, England were in disarray after Starc struck in the fifth over of the innings when he found Zak Crawley’s outside edge, taken by keeper Alex Carey for 5, and then trapped Dawid Malan lbw for a first-ball duck.
Pat Cummins maintained the pressure in an outstanding spell, while Boland came on for the penultimate over and had Haseeb Hameed caught behind with his third ball, then removed nightwatchman Jack Leach with a gem that clattered into the top of off stump two balls later as the match slipped back into a more familiar rhythm with England staring down a series defeat.
Root was unbeaten on 12 at the end of the day and Ben Stokes on 2.
England’s 2nd innings in Melbourne (27.4 overs) has lasted three fewer overs than their 2nd innings on the much maligned (by some of their fans/journalists) pitch in Ahmedabad in February (30.4 overs).
— Michael Appleton (@michelappleton) December 28, 2021
On Day 3, Scott Boland’s six-wicket haul on his Test debut allowed Australia to wrap up the Ashes 3-0, by lunch on the third day at the MCG.
Australia’s quicks continued their demolition job on England, with Boland adding to his two wickets from three balls during a devastating final hour on the second day, with four more on the third morning to seal an innings victory as the hosts retained the urn.
Boland took six wickets in 21 balls in all while Mitchell Starc, who had a big hand in reducing England to 31 for 4 in a cauldron-like atmosphere on day two, added the wicket of Ben Stokes inside the first 25 minutes of the resumption, to end with 3 for 29.
That was well and truly special from Scott Boland ✨
What an impact on his debut! #WTC23 | #Ashes pic.twitter.com/BGhsWqWU5O
— ICC (@ICC) December 28, 2021
Root hung around long enough to be England’s top-scorer – yet again – with just 28 this time, but he fell driving at Boland and edging to David Warner at slip. After scoring 1708 runs in 2021, Root ended the calendar year two runs shy of second-placed Viv Richards and 80 off Mohammad Yousuf’s record.
England brought up another less-coveted record, however, when Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson departed in the space of three Boland deliveries without scoring, taking their side’s tally of ducks to 54 this year and equaling their worst performance in that department of 1998.
“Everyone in that dressing room is gutted,” Root said after the match.
“That’s not a good enough performance. We all know that. We need to put some pride back into the badge and make sure we come away from this tour with something. It’s as simple as that.”
“I’d say that the best 18 players from the county game are definitely on this tour,” Root said.
Test runs for England this year :
1708 – Root
1204 – Root in team's 1st inns
1047 – Root outside home
932 – Root vs India
876 – Root when won toss
832 – Root when lost toss
805 – Root in wins
794 – Root in Asia
661 – Root at home
648 – Root in losses
530 – Burns
412 – Extras
— Rhitankar Bandyopadhyay (@rhitankar8616) December 28, 2021
“There are some very talented players within this squad and we have to find ways of upskilling ourselves and each other, and managing pressure points within the game better.”
“Unfortunately, where the game is at in our country right now, the only place you can really learn that is in the hardest environment,” he added.
“For what is quite a young batting group, they’re having to learn out here. The environment that they’re coming from, it’s not readying them well enough for Test cricket.”
“It’s a very difficult place, with everything that surrounds Test matches and the different conditions and environments. If you’re not ready going into it, it makes it very difficult to improve in that environment.”
“You look back at 2015 and the reset that happened in white-ball cricket, maybe that’s something that needs to be had in our red-ball game as well,” Root said.
“But that is a long conversation that I should probably have with you guys another time.”
“More than anything, we have to stay very mentally resilient,” he added.
England nowhere near good enough .. they will know that .. but seeing a 32 yr old on debut on his home turf with the Crowd going berserk is what makes Sport so special .. Well done Australia .. Far too good for England .. #Ashes @FoxCricket
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 28, 2021
“Just keep working very hard at our games, keep looking at ways to get better. And we have to make sure that when we get our opportunities to get ahead of the game, we take them.”
“It’s bitterly disappointing to be 3-0 down but there are still two Test matches to go. We have to try and make sure we come away from this tour with a couple of wins.”
On the other hand, Boland received a standing ovation when he was presented with the Johnny Mullagh medal as Player of the Match for the Boxing Day Test. The significance wasn’t lost on anyone.
Mullagh, whose birth name was Unaarrimin, was the stand-out star of Australia’s first touring cricket team to England in 1868 taking 245 wickets at 10. But that all-Aboriginal side did not receive Test or even first-class status. Mullagh’s only official first-class game came for Victoria in 1878.
He also served as a professional for the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1869-70 but was only inducted into Australian cricket’s hall of fame in 2020.
Boland has a direct link to Mullagh, having been part of an Indigenous team that toured England in 2018 to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the first tour.
“It’s something I’m very proud of now,” Boland said.
The Mullagh Medal commemorates the Aboriginal Australia tour of England in 1868.
Scott Boland, just the second Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia, wins it on debut. What a story ? #Ashes pic.twitter.com/KvBpFBhvxE
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 28, 2021
“I’ve had some messages from some mates and guys like Dan Christian, D’Arcy Short, just saying congratulations and really telling me to enjoy the moment so it’s really nice to get messages off those guys who were on the tour with me three years ago when we went to England.”
Boland only discovered his heritage in the last seven years but the quietly spoken Victorian understands what it means to have an Indigenous cricketer starring on the international stage.
“I can see how big Aboriginals are in the AFL and NRL [Australia’s major football codes],” Boland said.
“So hopefully this can be a moment and together with the Big Bash and D’Arcy Short, Ash Gardner and Dan Christian, hopefully, that could be sort of like a springboard for young Aboriginals to get involved in the game of cricket.”
The moment had greater significance for Belinda Duarte, a Wotjobaluk woman – an MCG Trustee, and a descendant of Yanggendyinanyuk (Dick-a-Dick) who was part of the 1868 first XI with Mullagh.
Duarte presented Boland with the Mullagh medal and was in tears as she spoke about what his performance meant to Aboriginal people.
“When he was taking the wickets that he was I was extraordinarily emotional,” Duarte said.
Enjoy every wicket of Scott Boland's epic second innings performance! ? #Ashes pic.twitter.com/Nll6vjBmXB
— News Cricket (@NewsCorpCricket) December 28, 2021
“Because I had many people, many Aboriginal people texting me, willing and wanting not only for his story to be told but the story about our people to be told as a part of cricket. It’s important to understand why it’s emotional and the origins of that first XI, what they were living at the time. What our families were experiencing, the enslavement, the prison submissions and reserves, the racism, and a space in which they learned cricket for four years in which they could be trailblazers.”
“This is a story that is not well known, and it should be etched in every Australian’s heart. It’s something for us to collectively be extraordinarily proud of. Who debuts and just does that? Who does that? Scott Boland does. And our ancestors stand proud with him.”
As Boland scythed his way through England’s dismal batting line-up he also become an instant cult hero in the manner that Merv Hughes had at the MCG.
Boland equalled the fastest five-wicket haul in Test history, completing it in just 19 deliveries. His 6 for 7 were the second-best figures for any six-wicket haul ever taken.
The infamous Bay 13 and half the Southern Stand were bowing down in unison and chanting his name. They even booed Pat Cummins when the captain moved Boland away from their adoration at fine leg into the ring at square leg.
“I’ve never played in front of a crowd that’s been so supportive of me like that,” Boland said.
“I’ve played in a couple of games in the Big Bash where the crowds have been big here at the MCG, but I’ve never had a crowd behind me like that. I tried to soak it up when I was at down fine leg. I really enjoyed it. It felt like they were sort of pushing me in when I was running it to bowl.”
Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo