Melbourne: Invited to bat first on a seaming pitch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, under-siege England lost the key wicket of captain Joe Root for 50 as the tourists slumped to 128-6 at tea on the first day of the third Ashes cricket test.
Australia’s pace-bowling captain Pat Cummins ripped through England’s top order in the opening session, taking three wickets, to leave the tourists at a precarious 61-3 at lunch on Sunday.
Australia then claimed another three wickets in the middle session, removing the dangerous duo of Root and Ben Stokes (25). The dismissal of Jos Buttler for three, after aiming a wild slog to deep mid-wicket off the bowling of spinner Nathan Lyon in the last over before tea, summed up England’s struggles against Australia’s disciplined bowling.
At the break Jonny Bairstow was not out 21.
After rain delayed the start of play for 30 minutes on Sunday morning, Cummins removed Haseeb Hameed, caught behind without scoring, and Zak Crawley, caught at gully for 12.
Dawid Malan added 48 for third wicket with Root, before Cummins was rewarded in the final over before lunch, as Malan was caught at first slip for 14 at 61-3.
Australia’s talisman Cummins, the World No.1-ranked bowler, led his side superbly in the opening session after winning the toss and bowling on an uncharacteristically green-tinged MCG pitch.
World No.2-ranked batsman Root reached his half-century off 76 deliveries, but quickly added to his side’s woes outside off stump by offering a catch to wicketkeeper Alex Carey off the bowling of Mitchell Starc at 82-4.
Stokes tried to lift England’s scoring rate by launching into an aggressive cut shot off the bowling of Cameron Green, but the left-hander was caught at gully at 115-5.
If Root can end his outstanding year on a high note by scoring at least 109 in England’s second innings, he will claim a new world record for most test runs in a calendar year, passing the tally of 1788 recorded by Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf in 2006.
England, which trails two-nil in the five-match series and requires three consecutive wins to reclaim the Ashes, has made four changes to its team. Root’s side regained pace bowler Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach in place of seamers Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, while Rory Burns and Ollie Pope were dropped for Crawley and Bairstow.
Australia made two changes. Cummins and debutant Scott Boland, 32, replacing seamers Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson.