30/05/2024

The Australians celebrate one of Scott Boland's second innings wickets as they secured the Ashes in emphatic fashion at the MCG. Image: @TheCricketerMag. Twitter

It was astonishing as it was embarrassing as it was beautiful and brutal, as Australia wrapped up the Ashes in 82 minutes on the third morning of the MCG Test.

It was astonishing as it was embarrassing as it as it was beautiful and brutal. All of that at the same time as Australia wrapped up the Ashes on the Third morning of the MCG Test.

It was the shortest Test match at the MCG in terms of balls bowled (1,084) since 1932.

Not even halfway there to the midpoint of the series, England was still living on a prayer that they could somehow mount a fightback with their two biggest guns at the crease overnight.

90 minutes before the scheduled halfway point of the series, it was all over.

England spent 14 days in quarantine on the Gold Coast when they embarked on the great Ashes tour which could have been their greatest triumph. It took 12 days of action for the series to be wrapped up and the Ashes to be lost.

The lines outside the Members stand were perhaps an antidote of what could happen today, with the allocation exhausted message going up early in the morning and with the queues stretching halfway down the avenue of legends as Mitchell Starc steamed in from the Great Southern Stand end to deliver the first ball of the day. 

The Southern Stand filled up slowly and by the time the first wicket fell, Starc getting one to come back through the gate to castle Ben Stokes, the place was rocking again.

82 minutes of play was all it took for Australia to complete the rout, taking 6/37 at a sun-bathed MCG in front of 40,945 fans who made it to the ground in time.

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If yesterday evening was as good as it got for cricket-loving Melburnians, the party was still getting moving When Scott Boland was tossed the ball and the track specialist obliged immediately.

The debutant took 6/7 in his four second-innings overs, finishing with his maiden five-for in his debut Test cricket. Taking the 22nd best figures on test debut in an innings ever, and the 6th best debut figure by an Australian.

Finishing with Player of the Match honours, winning the Johnny Mullagh Medal, the medal presented to the player adjudged Player of the Match on Boxing Day. Even more poignant with the Medal being a belt buckle from the Australian indigenous tour of England in 1868.

The Gulidjan man, just the fourth Indigenous test cricketer for Australia claiming the honour the second time it’s been awarded is extra poignant and special.

It caps off a remarkable four months for Justin Langer and Australian cricket who have completed the T20 World cup triumph and Ashes double. Four months ago it was all looking perilous for Langer and his tenure.

Completing a barnstorming performance at the MCG within three days will only give the incumbent coach more bargaining power when he sits down with Nick Hockley to discuss a new deal.

Led by captain Pat Cummins, who astonishingly, considering how well he bowled went wicketless in the third innings and had his teammates running rampant. His calm, composed, and aggressive nature as captain rubbing off on his teammates as they compartmentalised all that was happening off the field before the series and zeroed in for the kill.

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For England, having arrived saying they were well prepared when they arrived down under, and spruiking that the gap between the sides wasn’t too big, have been blown away in all departments. The seamers, the batters, the fielding the selection decisions, and what to do at the toss. All have fallen in a familiar pattern like many Ashes series down under before.

Joe Root aside, who himself has been in a different league to the rest of his England teammates with the bat in 2021, it has been as toothless as they come from an England side over the course of 2021.

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Root passed 1700 calendar runs for the year in Melbourne – a phenomenal achievement and sitting third all-time for the most productive Test years ever. Rory Burns is next best with 530 runs, dropped for this Test match, and the only other England batter apart from Root to reach three figures this year. Who is third? Extras. No really, aside from Root himself in individual months.

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It’s as startling as it is funny. But it’s a damning indictment on the England county system and red ball set up that is now under the microscope than ever before. Having been busted open by a rampaging Australia, who have needed to call on their bowling reserves this series more than they’d planned to and still gone and shot through the heart of England cricket and tucked the urn away in record time.

Reviews will be called and the reaction will be fierce, as England lick their wounds and try front up for the remaining two test matches with their tales between their legs. After a record year of Test match defeats, The new year and remaining rubbers give a chance to try some new things for the remaining days on the tour. A chance to try to change the course and create an environment to properly move forward and usher in a new era.

Will it be under Chris Silverwood? What capacity will it involve Joe Root? Will it be the end of the line for players like Burns, Buttler, and Bairstow who have all had repeated chances but yet to properly kick into it at Test level across many chances in the Root era.

For Australia though, It would seem all is right with the apple cart again. A team growing in confidence with a new captain admired with a crush on him the world over.

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And that new contract for Langer might just end up writing itself.

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