Outstanding Pat Cummins and Marcus Harris, England outclassed in Boxing Day Test
Head to the MCG for the Boxing Day test. Could England bounce back and keep the Ashes alive? Hahaha. No.
Here is my bulletin for the third test.
Pat Cummins Returns
Rating: A +
As an early downpour on day one dissipated, Pat Cummins made his triumphant return to the Aussie captain’s blazer. Excellent decision on his part not to sit near someone positive for COVID before this ash test. It’s this ability to learn from mistakes that makes Cummins such a threat.
Well, that and the pristine line and length while bowling at full speed. This also makes him a threat. Indeed, one of the unnoticed perks of having a fast pitcher as the captain of your test team is that he alone can justify any decision to play first.
As the old saying goes: when you win the toss, nine times out of ten, you hit first; the tenth time you think bowling first and then you do it, because you’re Pat Cummins and you can tear up any opposition batting lineup.
This is precisely what Cummins did. He took the first three English wickets and was set to take the ten, until Mitchell Starc stepped in to trap Joe Root after lunch, opening the floodgates for everyone to get involved. Starc will not play the next test after this demonstration of emphasis, you mark my words.
Losing counters before breaks
The reason Starc was able to get Root was because, in a display of excellent teamwork, Dawid Malan had succeeded in protecting the English captain from the burgeoning pre-lunch threat of huge male son Cameron Green.
Indeed, again, it seemed like England had Australia exactly where they wanted it before lunch. They had lost the first few games and secured the strong Root-Malan partnership early on, giving them time to build up a nice little position of confidence that they could then deflate in the middle session.
Instead, Malan went early, in a double deflationary bluff in England, falling to Cummins in the last game before lunch. Likewise, Jos Buttler also fell later in the last session of the second session. Weird that Buttler couldn’t wait for tea, considering he has one more. (Please use the Voice Memo app on your phone to record this joke, then play it back in audio form to maximize the pun’s already slim comedic potential. Thank you.)
Losing wickets in the last part of each session is a glorious touch for this England side. Such a complete comedy unit. But they weren’t limited to those overs. It was a constant net of inability to bat and poor choice of shots. For example, versatile Jack Leach attempted to get Nathan Lyon out of the attack by hitting him directly over the fence and into the crowd. But then, instead of continuing to hit Lyon for six, he switched to dragging it. Just another weird hitting decision from this English team.
On the other hand, all of this prevented Australia from having a chance to take a new ball. And if you don’t get a new ball, you can’t take wickets with the new ball. Advantage England, once again.
Australia were 1/61 before the matchday two match. Or, as they say in England (especially London bookmakers offering England odds to win), 61/1. But would there even be a second day of play?
Because suddenly everything changed when there were reports of positive COVID tests in the England camp. Thankfully, after several minutes of anxious phone calls to the England squad bus, news broke that the players were on their way to the pitch after being given the green light for their rapid antigen tests. It will almost certainly be the most exciting test result of the whole summer.
A great job for England to position themselves in a position where they could win the applause of the Aussie crowd just by showing up.
At one point during Harris’ innings, shortly after being pardoned by Snicko, he had a conversation with Ben Stokes at the non-attacking end. “Hot Spot’s f *** in hopeless,” said the Australian opener. “My mate, pot”, the infrared imaging system would surely have been tempted to respond if it had been sensitive and in possession of vocal cords.
And yet, with the coaches having given Harris a greater display of faith than a George Michael cover group, the Australian opener has finally decided to do well. And just in time too.
Because after beating England without their top two bowlers in the previous test, Australia had now arrogantly decided to try and beat them this test without significant points from their top two hitters.
Marnus Labuschagne celebrated his rise to the number one standings as a tryout by scoring a point. Steve Smith, meanwhile, only played 16.
This all meant Harris got to experience his very first fifth and sixth wicket partnerships in Test Cricket. What a pleasure for the young man.
Could he carry his bat? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Despite Harris’ heroic 76 leading the order, Australia struggled to push back England, which were quite phenomenal on Matchday 2.
Dig deep. Fight hard. Jimmy Anderson goes back in time. Mark Wood on fire. Ollie Robinson, an ever-threatening colossus. It was a magnificent display of the English spirit which, rightly so, made all their fans, journalists and fan journalists vibrate with renewed hope for the future.
When the dust cleared and Australia’s final wicket fell, the scoreboard revealed England’s considerable dominance, showing they had made their way to a deserved -82 lead. in the first round.
Then Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins came out and cast one of the most skillful fast bowling spells ever seen on the field. Scott Boland came on with an assist in the penultimate pass and England went 4/31, still 51 points away from beating Australia again.
Yet despite this, comfortably the best day of the series in England.
The next day, less good for them. I went to this third day and can confirm I spent more time parking the car than England did at bat. Tourists slumped for 68, with Boland finishing with a stunning 6/7 over four overs.
Australia wins the Test, the series, the Ashes and the prize for the most beautiful captain. Quite the all-out beating.