There’s a lot to be said for the fighting spirit of a British Bulldog. Finally, after the best part of two week’s worth of Ashes cricket in the white-hot crucible of an Australian summer, Alistair Cook and his team have stood up.
Sure, the urn is already out of their grasp, but the English showed today that there’s no such thing as a ‘dead rubber’ in an Ashes series. How different it could all have been! Day two of the Boxing Day Test started much the same way as the first – the fearsome bristles of Mitchell Johnson’s moustache celebrating an English tail end collapse. He removed Bresnan in his first over, Pietersen in his second and Broad two overs later to pick up his third five-wicket haul of the series and England reeled to being all out for 255.
As England’s bowling group trudged out to the centre to begin the second innings, the skies above the MCG – leaden and overcast all morning – suddenly burst into glorious sunshine. It was surprising that Cook didn’t begin furiously shaking his fist at the heavens and the fickle whims of the cricketing Gods. Yet, Australia’s innings never really got going. David Warner was the first out, looping a miscued pull shot straight into the air off the bowling of Anderson for 9.
Watson edged through to Bairstow for 10 before Michael Clarke inexplicably left an Anderson ball alone, which cannoned into the top of his off stump.
It was only nuggety opener Chris Rogers who managed to make any runs but it certainly wasn’t easy going for him.
Rogers and young Steve Smith batted together for nearly two hours but were only able to put on 48 together at a limpid run rate of just over 2 an over. Then it all came undone for the Aussies, their middle order slumping with three quick wickets coming for just 13 runs. Smith edged a Broad delivery into the slips for 19, before Rogers (61) bizarrely tried to hit Tim Bresnan into the crowd but only managed to spoon the ball to Pietersen at mid off.
George Bailey scratched around without scoring off 18 balls before taking the very finest of edges off an Anderson delivery and suddenly the Aussies were in real strife. Haddin remains not out on 43, having successfully challenged a decision given against him off a Monty Panesar arm ball and is the only chance Australia have of getting anywhere near 200.
Australia 164/9 at the close, trail England by 91 runs with one wicket remaining.