England had lost the Ashes by the time they headed into the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, but they still had pride to play for, to try and ensure that they did not go into the New Year Test 0-4 down, and staring a 0-5 whitewash. Sadly for England, they failed in their endeavour, and now will actually go into the final Test at Sydney with a buoyant Aussies looking to embarrass them and seek revenge for Ashes losses in recent years. Like in the earlier Tests, poor batting once again was the visitors’ bane.
Unlike in the first three matches, England were in with a genuine opportunity to push for a victory at Melbourne, but blew away the chance. Although they were bowled out cheaply for 255 batting first, England’s bowlers came up with their best performance of the tour to reduce Australia to 164 for 9 at the end of the second day’s play. The momentum was with them, but they could not seize their best opportunity of the series to keep the Aussies down. England’s bowlers needed to get rid of the last pair early on day three, but allowed Australia to reach 204.
In spite of the disappointment with the ball, England still gained a slender lead, and needed to bat better a second time round to give them another shot at victory. This is where they failed and lost the Test. It was an extremely disheartening batting performance as the Englishmen were cleaned up for 179 and set the Aussies only 231 for victory. As it has often happened in the series, some England batsmen got starts, but failed to build on the same. Skipper Alastair Cook, who is having a horror run, crossed 50, but was trapped soon after. Kevin Pietersen hung in for a while, but ran out of partners.
The story was similar for England in the first innings as well. Everyone from the top five got starts, but only Pietersen carried on to make 71. Even he was guilty was not going on to make a hundred, but the failure of the others made his knock look much more significant. For the record, Cook got 27, Carberry 38, Root 24 and Bell 27. You don’t win Tests by such performances, and hence it wasn’t surprising that England went down once again in spite of the fact that their bowlers came up with a spirited performance.
Moving on to Australia, this was the first time that England put them under pressure, and the hosts demonstrated the tenacity to come out of the tricky situation. Chris Rogers was the star of the show for the Aussies with a fighting half-century in the first innings, and a sublime ton in the second, which led Australia’s victory charge. As he has often done in the series, Brad Haddin came up with another crucial knock to help Australia’s cause in the first innings. Nathan Lyon’s five-for in England’s second innings led Australia’s fightback after being bowled out cheaply. Above all, Mitchell Johnson, yet again, outsmarted England and delivered the killer blows.
--By A Cricket Analyst