Australia take unassailable 3-0 lead in Ashes series after bowling England out for 68 on day three at MCG; debutant Scott Boland bags remarkable figures of 6-7 from four overs as hosts thrash Joe Root's side by an innings and 14 runs; England's ninth defeat in last 12 Test matches
Tuesday 28 December 2021 13:47, UK
Australia have retained The Ashes after torpedoing England for just 68 on day three of the third Test in Melbourne to win by an innings and 14 runs and take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
The hosts were quite brilliant with the ball as they reduced England to 31-4 late on day two and there was little let-up on Tuesday morning as the beleaguered tourists added just 37 runs to their overnight total to be rolled in 27.4 overs - captain Joe Root (28) the only player to pass 11.
Australia debutant Scott Boland finished with remarkable figures of 6-7 from four overs, dismissing Jonny Bairstow (5) and Root before removing Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson for the visitors' 53rd and 54th Test ducks of the year respectively.
Cameron Green cleaned up James Anderson (2) around 80 minutes into the third day's play to clinch Australia's Ashes victory after just 12 days of cricket and ensure the Baggy Greens will keep the urn until at least 2023, when the sides next meet again in England.
Captain Root and deputy Ben Stokes had resumed on 12 and two respectively once play was given the green light to begin following the entire England and Australia squads recording negative PCR tests.
Root and Stokes picked up some early boundaries to give England, who trailed by 51 runs at the start of the day, hope they could not only make Australia bat again but also set the hosts a challenging fourth-innings target on a tricky pitch.
That idea was shattered, though, as Mitchell Starc bowled Stokes (11) through the gate in the fifth over of the morning and Boland then took over - the final six wickets falling for 22 runs and the last five for just eight as England suffered their lowest Test score in Australia since 1904 and ninth-lowest score against them in all Test cricket.
Boland pinned Bairstow lbw in the 23rd over - a few balls after having him dropped by Green at gully - and then had Root caught by David Warner at slip in the 25th to leave England 61-7 and with all hope having evaporated.
Boland caught Wood off his own bowling and then forced Robinson to snick behind to Marnus Labuschagne in the space of three balls in the 27th over as England's tally of ducks matched the record 54 they had previously set back in 1998.
Anderson ensured that would not extend to 55 when he clipped the first ball he faced into the leg-side for a couple of runs but was on his way in the next over as England tumbled to a chastening defeat, their ninth in their last 12 Tests and 12th in their last 13 away Ashes Tests.
England's last victory on Australian soil came way back at Sydney in January 2011, in a series they won 3-1 under the captaincy of Sir Andrew Strauss, and they will now be aiming to avoid a 5-0 sweep with Tests in Sydney (January 5-9 and Hobart (January 14-18) to come.
Ample reasons have been given for England's horror tour, in which they lost the first Test in Brisbane by nine wickets and the second in Adelaide by 275 runs, with the batting top of that list.
England have a top-score of 297 in six innings and failed to pass 200 on four of those occasions - with their double-figure return in the second innings at Melbourne, which followed being bundled out for 185 first time around, a disastrous new low.
Root is the only player to average over 40 and each of the three batters tried in the opening positions - Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley - are averaging below 13.
The England captain fell short in his bid to prise the record for the most Test runs in a calendar year from Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf, who amassed 1,788 in 2006.
Root ended up with 1,708 in 28 innings in 2021, placing him third on the all-time list for most Test runs in a year, two behind the 1,710 West Indies' Sir Vivian Richards managed in 1976.
The 30-year-old has carried England's batting this year, scoring 1,178 runs more than any of his team-mates - Burns second on that list with 530 runs.
Root has now presided over back-to-back Ashes series defeats in Australia, having also led the side during their 4-0 shellacking in 2017/18, and with the 2019 series in England drawn 2-2, he is yet to win a red-ball series against Australia as skipper.
Australia skipper Pat Cummins, meanwhile, has won The Ashes in his first series as captain, although he was absent for the second Test in Adelaide due to Covid isolation - Steve Smith taking over for that game.
Cummins can now look forward to a warm welcome at the Sydney Test in the New Year as he returns to his home ground as an Ashes-winning captain.
For opposite number Root, though, he will face questions about another dismal result for his side and about his future as leader, all while trying to galvanise his troops and ensure they do not suffer a third away Ashes trip in succession without winning a match.