England spent longer in quarantine at the start of the tour than it took Australia to retain the Ashes. Their challenge crumbled in humiliating fashion at the MCG with the most pathetic collapse in a black year for English Test-match batting.
England folded to 68 all out, losing their last five wickets for eight runs in 29 balls as Australia needed just 80 minutes of play on the third day of the Boxing Day Test to win by an innings and 14 runs.
Australia retained the Ashes in just over 11 days of playing time against an England side outclassed in every facet. A 5-0 whitewash is inevitable unless weather comes to their aid. It completed a ninth Test-match defeat of 2021 for England — the most they have ever lost in the same year.
Joe Root cut a forlorn figure as he faced the cameras after play with not a teammate in sight. They all hunkered down in the MCG dressing rooms while Root attempted to explain a 12th defeat in 13 Tests in Australia. What could he say?
Scott Boland took the man-of-the-match award for startling figures of 6-7 from 29 balls, cleaning up after the brutal assault of the previous evening when England were reduced to 31-4 as batsmen trembled against an onslaught of gladiatorial fast bowling from Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. The man of the match award is the recreation of a belt buckle worn on the 1 868 Australian indigenous tour of England and named after Johnny Mullagh, the star of the series. It was a touching moment when Boland, the second male cricketer of Aboriginal heritage to play for Australia, was handed the medal.
A pleasant sunny morning ideal for batting greeted England but they were distracted by the growing Covid outbreak among their families back at the team hotel that still threatens the rest of the tour and did not have the strength of character to recover from the previous evening’s losses.
Ben Stokes was the first to go with just 15 added to the overnight total. His average plummeted to 16 in the series when he was bowled through the gate by Starc, beaten all ends up by a nipbacker.
Root became only the third batsman ever to make 1700 runs in a calendar year when he drove Starc gloriously down the ground for four but it was a hollow achievement; all was being lost at the other end.
Jonny Bairstow should have been out on four when he cut hard at Boland’s first ball of the day that was dropped by Cameron Green at gully. Four deliveries later it was all over when Bairstow was lbw to Boland, the decision marginal but he had little grounds to complain given his earlier stroke of luck.
With Jos Buttler at the other end, England’s only remaining hope of building a lead lay with Root. But this was a challenge too far, a rescue job beyond anyone. He was hit with another painful blow in the groin, the third in a week, this time by Cummins, and looked frazzled by the Bairstow lbw decision when it was upheld on review.
He lost concentration and played a loose drive to Boland to be caught at first slip by David Warner for 28. It was all over now. England were 61-6, all hope gone and a 40,000 crowd scenting a magical moment approaching.
Boland is nicknamed the barrel because he once weighed more than 100kgs before slimming down and putting himself in Test contention at the age of 32. The local hero was urged on by the old Bay 13, who sang his name the way they used to chant “Warney” in the glory years of Australian cricket.— TeleGraph.
With England reeling he was in dreamland and more wickets were there for the taking. He was soon holding up the match ball for his five-fer, moments after Mark Wood hit a return catch. Two balls later he had six when Ollie Robinson edged to slip.
James Anderson, who did so much to give England a chance in this game, was the last to go bowled off stump by Green.
You have to go back to Victorian times for a worse England batting performance against Australia. Their 68 all out was the lowest total by them in Australia since 1904 but at least Plum Warner’s team won that series.
England’s batsmen are currently averaging 18.75 in the series, their lowest of an Ashes series of at least three matches since 1888.
They added four more ducks to the tally for 2021 taking it to 54, equalling their own record.
Root finished more than 1100 runs ahead of the next batsmen this year – Rory Burns, who had been dropped for this Test. He will never have another year like this with the bat and it must be galling that not one colleague could offer him any consistent support.
It is a solitary job being England captain but nobody has felt lonelier in the role than Root has this year and in the cavernous stadium he looked lost.
England humiliated in Melbourne as Australia clinch Ashes — as it happened. — TeleGraph.