It was an anomaly to what we have seen in the Ashes series Down Under so far for it was a day that had been dominated completely by the tourists. It was a day when England’s senior stars finally put their hands up to be counted after going into hiding in the first three Tests.
After the hosts had ended day one of the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground strongly at 244-3, England’s bowlers came roaring back on Wednesday morning to bundle out Australia for 327.
In reply, Joe Root’s men posted 192 for the loss of two wickets only to complete what has definitely been the best day for the tourists so far in the Australian summer.
Here, we look at the key talking points of a day which belonged to England.
STUART BROAD FINALLY ARRIVES AT THE ASHES
One half of England’s senior pace attack, Broad has literally been missing in action in the Ashes until Wednesday. Having picked up just five wickets in the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests, the 31-year-old went wicketless at the WACA where he returned with this worst ever Test figures.
The pacer ended his 67-over wicket drought on Tuesday with the dismissal of Usman Khawaja and that breakthrough seems to have jolted the 31-year-old out of hibernation. The right-arm quick accounted for the wickets of the Marsh brothers in the morning session along with that of Jackson Bird.
He led England’s fight-back on the day and was ably backed up by England’s other senior pacer James Anderson who chimed in with two wickets. Australia lost their last seven wickets for just 67 runs as Broad returned with his best bowling figures in a Test match since November 2016.
TOM CURRAN REPEATS OVERTON HEROICS TO END SMITH’S MCG STRONGHOLD
Curran had been denied a maiden Test scalp on Tuesday in perhaps the most agonising of ways. The debutant’s elation had quickly turned to angst when a retrospective no-ball call cancelled out his dismissal of David Warner who was batting on 99 at the time.
Wednesday finally brought the moment Curran would have most eagerly looked forward to when he was handed his Test cap as he collected a prize first-ever wicket. The right-arm pacer had Steve Smith play-on to his stumps, a dismissal which heralded Australia’s collapse. It was the first time Smith had been dismissed at the MCG in a Boxing Day Test since 2014 with the right-hander having scored 445 runs at the venue since then.
Just like Craig Overton on debut at the Adelaide Oval, Curran has the coveted wicket of an in-form Australian skipper as his maiden Test scalp, and to do it at the MCG in front of a 88,000 plus crowd on a Boxing Day Test will be a story the Surrey youngster will be telling his grandchildren in the distant future.
THERE IS LIFE YET IN ALASTAIR COOK
Throughout the Ashes, no other English player has come under greater fire than Alastair Cook whose miserable form with the bat has led to collective calls of dropping the senior-most batsman from the touring party.
Having scored only 83 runs so far in six innings, Cook put together his most accomplished display in a long time to register his 32nd Test ton. He broke a ten-innings drought of not scoring a fifty, his longest since making his debut against India in March 2006.
The most pleasing aspect of the southpaw’s innings was that he looked in complete control as he motored along to an unbeaten 166-ball 104 with the help of 15 boundaries. The opener was given a life when batting on 66 as Smith dropped a tough chance at first slip off the bowling of Mitchell Marsh. But, that was the only sniff Australia would get as Cook went past Mahela Jayawardene to become the eighth-highest all-time run getter in Test cricket with 11, 816 runs.
His unbeaten ton might have come after England have already surrendered the Ashes but it will be a timely reminder that there is life yet in the 32-year-old man who was once destined to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 15, 921 Test runs.
It was Cook’s fifth ton Down Under and he now remarkably has a hundred in each of Australia’s five Ashes venues.
AUSTRALIA SURRENDER INITIATIVE IN DRASTIC COLLAPSE
When stumps were called on day one, Australia taking a 4-0 lead seemed all but a formality. England’s spirit had seemed broken since the first Test and there seemed to be now way back for the tourists in the face of an unrelenting host.
England however, found a second life as their seniors came to the fore while Smith’s men showed how ordinary they can be made to look without their skipper firing on all cylinders.
Smith’s dismissal by Curran opened the floodgates and no other Aussie batsman could get themselves going on Wednesday as the last seven wickets fell for 63 runs. Shaun Marsh completed his half-century but failed to kick on while younger broker Mitchell failed to repeat his Perth exploits.
The Australian tail has wagged aplenty in the series but England’s bowlers made sure they did not this time as the hosts surrendered a strong position to find themselves on the back-foot at the end of the day.
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