England crush Aussies on first day

England's Boxing Day stunner sees Australia crash to their lowest Ashes total in 133 years at Melbourne Cricket Ground.


    Australia's batsmen were frustrated by Anderson and Tremlett, the England pace duo, both taking four wickets each [EPA]

    England have taken control of the Ashes on the opening day of the fourth test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), after bowling Australia out for 98 in their first innings.

    The tourists then charged ahead to score 157 without loss by stumps, on Sunday.

    Australia's dismal batting performance eclipsed their previous lowest of 104 against their opponents at the MCG in the inaugural match of England's first test tour of Australia in 1876-77.

    The hosts won that test by 45 runs.

    Brutal bowling

    England captain Strauss won the toss and sent Australia into bat on a moist, grassy pitch that offered swing and varying bounce from the first ball on an overcast morning.

    England's seamers ran through Australia's top order  before lunch and then grabbed their last six wickets for the loss of only 40 runs before tea to stun an 84,000-strong crowd.

    James Anderson (4-44) and Chris Tremlett (4-26) did the damage, while wicketkeeper Matt Prior took six catches as the Australian wickets fell to catches off edges behind the wicket, at regular intervals.

    Tim Bresnan, replacement for Steve Finn, took 2-25.

    Tremlett and Bresnan removed openers Shane Watson (5) and the struggling Phillip Hughes (16) respectively.

    The latter gave away his wicket with a miscued cut that flew straight to Kevin Pietersen at gully.

    Ricky Ponting, Australia captain's troubled batting form in the series continued as he was out for 10, edging Tremlett to Graeme Swann in the slips.

    Mike Hussey, forced into the role of rescuer throughout the series, suffered his first batting failure by Anderson just before lunch, nicking to Matt Prior's safe hands behind the wickets for eight.

    A rain shower that brought lunch five minutes early and delayed the second session by 45 minutes compounded Australia's misery as the ball continued to turn in the early afternoon.
    Anderson struck twice shortly after lunch, removing Steve Smith for six and Michael Clarke for 20, both caught behind by Prior with similar deliveries that swung late.

    Brad Haddin, Australia wicketkeeper, then flashed at Tim Bresnan.

    But his flat-footed drive flew straight to Strauss at first slip, sparking England's ecstatic 'Barmy Army' into renditions of "God Save the Queen".

    Anderson's dismissal of paceman Mitchell Johnson for a duck was England's third without a run conceded after lunch, as Australia crashed from 77-5 to 77-8.
    Australia's tail added another 21 runs, with Peter Siddle's 11 finishing the third-highest score of the innings.

    James Anderson, key England paceman said that, "In an Ashes series to bowl Australia out for less than 100 and then be 150 for none at the end of play is just unheard of, really".

    "Today was when all those bits of luck came together and we got the nicks that we've missed in the past, " he added.

    Solid opening pair

    Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, the England opening pair, added to their hosts' woes by surviving more than three hours at the crease.

    With the afternoon sunshine drying out the pitch, the duo made good use of the conditions at a pitch that had earlier troubled Australia's batsmen.

    Strauss remained not out on 64 and Cook on 80 at the close of play, raising England's hopes of taking the Ashes home for the first time in 24 years.

    Cook, who scored a match-saving double-century in Brisbane but failed twice in Perth, raised his half-century by cutting a loose delivery from Mitchell Johnson for four in the 32nd over.

    Strauss reached his half-century five overs later, tucking a single off part-time legspinner Smith to deep mid-on.

    Johnson had sparked Australia's 267-run win in Perth with a match-winning six-wicket haul but was hit for 11 runs off his first over and finished with unflattering figures of 0-42 off seven overs.

    With Australia's batsmen embarrassed and their pace attack frustrated, spectators left the 100,000-capacity stadium in droves, leaving their bowlers to toil fruitlessly in front of rows of empty seats for the last hour.

    Michael Clarke, Australian vice-captain said that, "England outplayed us and it was a tough day, but fortunately there's four days left in this Test match, so it's really important we come out tomorrow and show that intent."

    England last won a famous victory at the MCG in 1998 with Dean Headley taking 6-60 in the second innings as the tourists won by just 12 nail-biting runs.

    Australia's only loss at the MCG this decade has been against South Africa two years ago as the Proteas went on to win their first-ever series in Australia.

    The five-test Ashes series is tied at 1-1.

    England, who currently hold the Ashes, need to win only the Melbourne test to be the first team to retain the Ashes on Australian soil since Mike Gatting's side in 1986/87.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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