England are on the brink of another Ashes defeat in Australia as their top-order crumbled again late on day two in Melbourne; Jimmy Anderson excelled for the tourists prior to that with figures of 4-33 to lead an impressive England bowling effort at the MCG
Last Updated: 27/12/21 10:49am
Jimmy Anderson was in fine fettle for England but Australia ended the day within touching distance of the urn. Here are the notables from a day that promised so much but ended in all-too familiar disappointment for the tourists…
A disastrous final hour ruined what had been England’s best day of this Ashes series so far as Australia closed in on victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, writes Sam Drury.
The tourists ended day two on 31-4, still trailing by 51 runs, as Mitchell Starc (2-11) and Scott Boland (2-1) tore through the top order with two wickets apiece; the only solace for England is that Joe Root (12no) survived the day and will start again on day three with Ben Stokes (2no) for company.
Prior to that late collapse, it had been England’s day with the bowlers working hard and making the most of a seamer-friendly surface to bowl Australia out for 267, limiting the first-innings lead to 82, with James Anderson the pick of the attack, taking 4-33.
However, all that good work was undone by some excellent Australia bowling in closing stages of the day, Starc removing Zak Crawley (5) and Dawid Malan (0) in successive balls and Boland dismissing Haseeb Hameed (7) and nightwatchman Jack Leach (0) in the space of three deliveries to leave England needing something special to avoid defeat, both in the match and the series.
For the sake of argument, let’s just say that England’s, erm, faltering, top-order have had quite enough said about them for the time being – I fear there may be ample opportunity to discuss them again in the coming weeks, in any case. So, while the series just about remains alive, we are going to focus on the positives and what, for the first five and a half hours of play, was the story of the day: Jimmy Anderson.
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Monty Panesar says Jimmy Anderson produced another brilliant bowling performance at the MCG but criticised England’s fragility with the bat
The man is a marvel. Aged 39, on his fifth tour of Australia, far from a fading force, Anderson looked like a man at the peak of his powers on day two at The ‘G’. Having removed David Warner late on the first evening, he bowled Steve Smith on the second morning and at one stage, across a couple of spells, he bowled 11 overs for three runs, with 63 dot balls and took two wickets.
The second of those was Australia opener Marcus Harris, who had batted stubbornly to make 76 but had required more than a touch of good fortune as Anderson went past his outside edge time and again before eventually finding it soon after drinks in the afternoon session. His figures of 4-33 proving once again that he does not need a Dukes ball and English conditions to make his mark.
While Anderson was the standout for England with the ball, this was an impressive showing all round from the tourists’ seam attack with Ollie Robinson continuing to prove himself as a Test match bowler of real quality and Mark Wood knocking over No 1 Test batter Marnus Labuschagne cheaply and troubling the Aussies with his pace throughout the innings.
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Sadly for England, Australia have a rather potent pace attack, too, and it was they who took centre stage in an enthralling final hour. But while they have been far from perfect in this series and the make-up of the attack was all wrong in each of the first two Tests, the root-and-branch review that will surely follow a now inevitable Ashes defeat should not be starting with the bowlers, least of all the imperious Anderson.
STAT OF THE DAY
Jimmy Anderson now has a better Ashes bowling average in Australia (67 wickets at 33.20) than in England (44 at 33.38). Not by much, I’ll grant you, but still…
— Lawrence Booth (@the_topspin) December 27, 2021
MOMENT OF THE DAY
Setting the tone is important for a captain and, boy, did Pat Cummins do that on the second evening. England had got through the first over from Starc with rather surprising ease, five balls left well alone and Hameed nudging the other for a single. Perhaps this was not going to be quite as fraught as we had imagined? Hold that thought.
Cummins came charging in and banged the ball in, back-of-a-length to Hameed and saw it rear up sharply. It was all the England opener could do to get his hands up and fend it off to protect himself, the ball looped up and just over the slips as Hameed scampered to the safety of the non-striker’s end. A leg bye was given with the ball coming off the arm guard but had it gone to hand, no one would have been shocked if it was proven to have flicked glove or bat handle as well.
Hameed survived but with that one delivery, Australia were up with the crowd roaring them on. England were unable to withstand the pressure and are staring down the barrel of another chastening defeat. Cummins bowled six frightening overs of relentless intensity but somehow did not take a wicket.
That was left to Starc and Boland but it was the skipper who led the charge and he will be back again on day three.
TWEETS OF THE DAY
Tough mini session for Australia, that. They are three behind the over rate.
— Will Macpherson (@willis_macp) December 27, 2021
Since Jimmy Anderson turned 35, he has taken 24 wickets at 23.83 in Australia. Phenomenal.
— Tim Wigmore (@timwig) December 27, 2021
Jimmy Anderson in Tests away from home in 2021 :-
Innings – 9.
Wickets – 21.
Average – 12.95.
Strike Rate – 45.3
Economy – 1.71.
– Staggering numbers by Anderson, best bowler of his side even when he’s 39.
— Vasanth Kumar (@VasanthKumarG09) December 27, 2021
WHAT THEY SAID
England’s James Anderson, speaking to BT Sport: “It was a very disappointing finish to the day. I thought we bowled really well to keep the pressure on and to bowl them out for less than 300 was a good effort. Then it was a challenging 12 overs. It was a great spell from Starc and Cummins, to be fair, but you expect that as they are world-class bowlers who have performed like that for a number of years. It is disappointing to lose four wickets in 12 overs.”
Glenn McGrath, speaking to BT Sport: “I think Anderson would love to pick this pitch up and take it with him! These are as good bowling conditions as you are going to get and that hour was as tough batting conditions as you are going to face. You are really under [a] microscope. There is bounce, pace, seam, so you can’t be too tough on the England batters. It was really hard work.”
Steve Harmison, speaking to BT Sport: “I’d say England were blown away. It was fantastic fast bowling from Australia. You can talk about same old, same old from England, old mistakes, but it was proper, proper fast bowling. The wicket is offering a bit but if England had been five or six down I don’t think they could have complained, with the areas Australia bowled.”
Jonathan Trott, speaking to BT Sport: “We talk about winning key moments and this was a key moment in the series, not just the game. It was the moment for England to hopefully get through. The last hour was so important in the context of the series and unfortunately it had gone Australia’s way. We have to stay positive with the two best batsmen in the England side, Stokes and Root, still there, but Australia are in the driving seat.”
Moeen Ali, speaking to BT Sport: “Root and Stokes are probably going to have to play the best innings of their careers. I know Stokesy and Rooty have both done that previously but they are going to have to do it again for us to stand a chance. It is a big ask on this wicket, in my opinion, but there is hope.”