The Ashes: Boxing Day brilliance

Alexander Penny
images 150x150 The Ashes: Boxing Day brilliance

Chris Tremlett went for 10 runs in his first over, only to return with figures of 4-16 from his next 10.5 overs

For cricket fans around Australia it was like expecting an Xbox 360 for Christmas only to get a scarf after the dismal display put on show to the masses gathered at the MCG . The stark contrast in performance from Perth cannot be blamed solely on the slower pitch as a disciplined bowling display tore the home side to shreds.

You could not write the script for an Ashes series, last week fans and critics alike were hailing Australia’s unprecedented victory in Perth after a dominant display, but now the tables have turned firmly back toward England. Perth is one of few tracks’ that has retained a hard, fast and bouncy pitch that would justify a typical surface Down Under, yet conditions in Melbourne today were no different from that of Headingley as a light green tinge on the wicket with substantial cloud cover allowed the tourists’ to feel right at home.

An inspirational swing bowling display by James Anderson (4-44) and Chris Tremlett (4-26) saw England run riot as an out-of-sorts Aussie side capitulate to 98 all out in front of the 84,000 strong crowd. Many disastrous fishing expeditions, if you’ll excuse the pun, by several experienced batsmen further enhanced the fact that Perth may well have been simply a blip on England’s otherwise flawless tour thus far.

Several hopeless prods, most notably from Michael Clarke (20) and Mike Hussey (8), gave Matt Prior and the men alongside him some solid practice. In fact, not one wicket fell in front of the wicket as the keeper took six catches while the slips and gully took the rest as a series of wayward shots supported England’s cause.

But take nothing away from Andrew Strauss’s three frontline bowlers as they all kept consistent line and lengths to restrain each batsman brilliantly. No player was allowed to get going, and the gentle swing that constantly teased Ricky Ponting’s team proved to be their downfall.

Prior to this capitulation, Australia’s lowest Test total at the ground had taken place in 1877 when Test cricket took it’s bow and England had shot the hosts out for 104. The Ashes was not to be formed for five years but this was a new low for the Baggy Greens, and it was compounded when the tourists’ safely negotiated the evening session to end the day on 157 without loss, 59 runs ahead of their rivals.

Strauss (64 not out) and Alastair Cook (8o not out) batted with supreme confidence as they dispatched a wayward bowling attack that reignited memories of Adelaide. Loose long-hops and short deliveries outside the off-stump gave the openers far too much room as they simply could not find the rhythm that their opponents utilised so well.

England will now firmly believe they have one hand on the Ashes, and from here they must press on against a side once again suffering on the slower pitch. The track will gain pace as the match goes on, but for now, the tourist’s must utilise the position they have put themselves in.

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