Another day, another collapse for woeful England

The fight for urn is almost over, but the nightmare is only just beginning for England.

Australia are just days away from sealing another home Ashes series victory after Joe Root’s pre-game rallying cry failed to prevent a Boxing Day debacle for the beleaguered visitors.

A crowd of 57,100 – well below the predicted 70,000 – watched the 10th day of this series play out eerily similar to the nine before it, this time with a new-look England line-up folding meekly to an Australian attack that by the end were no longer celebrating wickets with gusto.

From the moment returning skipper Pat Cummins prised out the hapless Haseeb Hameed in the second over, it was apparent there would be no post-Christmas recovery.

Cummins set the tone by pouching the first three wickets, all to nicks and all before lunch, before England’s middle order self-destructed during the afternoon, bundled out for 185 – the third time in five innings they have been dismissed for less than 200.

“We tried to keep it really full that first session, keep the stumps in play as much as possible as their batters were pretty conscious of wanting to leave the ball, so we tried to keep attacking them as much as we could,” debutant Scott Boland said. “We were judging ourselves on how much we could make them play.”

The combination of a green deck and grey skies made batting difficult – hence why both captains would have bowled first – but it was no excuse for some of the shots England played.

The only positive for the visitors is they will not have to deal with David Warner (38) on the second day, but Australia, 1-61 at stumps on the first day, have plenty to look forward to with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith still to come.

Putting the cherry on top of close to the perfect day for the hosts, opener Marcus Harris survived the new ball to make it to 20. The blood he shed after being struck on the fingers by Ben Stokes was a small price to pay for the chance to play what could be a career-saving innings.

In many ways, this was arguably England’s worst performance with the bat of the series, coming after a crisis meeting in which home truths were delivered, wholesale changes made. If that cannot produce a spike in performance, what will?

What captain Root and coach Chris Silverwood got was the same old technical flaws and weaknesses being exposed by an Australian attack that has seldom had to go beyond Plan A.

Beleaguered England captain Joe Root in action on Boxing Day. Credit:AP

In functioning teams, the senior players show the way for the less capable and inexperienced, but here England’s leaders were guilty of the worst shots.

Root was furious with himself after getting out in the exact manner he had been trying all week at training to avoid. Yet again, Root’s strength around the world became a weakness on these shores. Attempting to milk a single behind the wicket, Root was unable to smother Mitchell Starc’s extra bounce, feathering one to Alex Carey.

All five of his dismissals this series have been to catches behind the stumps, and, with one exception, to deliveries he need not have played at. It was the ninth time he had failed to convert at 50 into triple figures in Australia.

Root has at least paid his way though he will be frustrated he gifted his wicket away having appeared so assured at the crease.

He was one of two wickets for Starc, who bowled just three overs in the first session, but Cummins said there was nothing sinister to it, admitting he got his ends wrong.

Stokes (25), too, was guilty of a lazy get-out shot, wasting the foundation he had worked so hard to build by tapping a backfoot drive off Cameron Green straight to Nathan Lyon at point. It was the type of stroke befitting a player lacking in match practice.

Jos Buttler was the most culpable. A study of discipline in his team’s gallant effort to save the Adelaide Test, the white-ball wonder picked the wrong delivery to smoke Lyon over cow corner for six, though the last over before tea was an odd time to attempt such a shot.

Local lad Boland’s first day in the baggy green yielded two catches and, of more statistical importance, a maiden Test wicket.

“So happy, all my teammates got around me, which made it really special,” Boland said. “When I went to the boundary the crowd was going nuts.”

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