Here, Standard Sport’s cricket correspondent Will Macpherson provides the latest instalment of his Australia tour diary...
An unwanted half century for England
With the first wicket of the day, Haseeb Hameed caught behind off Pat Cummins, England reached an unwanted milestone: fifty (50) Test ducks in 2020.
This sorry tale began in innocuous fashion in Galle in January, when Sam Curran was bowled for a first-baller (one of his three golden ducks this year), and has revved along at alarming pace.
Hameed made a duck in his first innings back after five years away with England in August, and has made three more since.
In total, England’s openers have made 14 (Rory Burns is the market leader with 14) and they have regularly found themselves a wicket down before scoring a run.
He is one of a remarkable 19 players to make a duck this year, with the full breakdown as follows:
•4 Lawrence, Hameed, Sibley, Bairstow, Robinson, Anderson
•3 Broad, Curran
•2 Buttler, Crawley, Archer, Bracey
•1 Root, Leach, Stone, Wood, Moeen, Bess
•0 Stokes, Pope, Malan, Woakes, Foakes, Overton
England now need five ducks in the second innings to break their own record for most in a calendar year: 54 in 1998. If that sounds a lot, they scored them at a lower rate that year, because they played so many Tests.
Five might sound a lot, but you never know…
Glutton for punishment
As England floundered with the bat in the middle of the day, a half-naked pitch invader ran across the MCG outfield, briefly evading security while making a political statement scrawled across his chest (he stood against Australia’s vaccine mandate).
Harmless japes, you might think. But as security stalked him, a message flashed up on the big screen: the fine for breaking onto the ground was a cool – and very specific – $9,913.20. That is quite an expensive day out.
Scott Boland became just the second Indigenous Australian to play men’s Test cricket. It was a shame the first, another fast bowler in Jason Gillespie, was not around to present his Baggy Green. Gillespie is Head Coach of the Adelaide Strikers, who play in Hobart tomorrow night.
Josh Hazlewood was an appropriate and able stand-in. Boland is essentially filling his spot as he recovers from a side strain. It was lovely that Boland’s wife Daphne and two young children were on hand to listen to what Hazlewood had to say. Boland said Hazlewood was a bowler he had looked up to for some time.
Boland is a significant Test cricketer, and he picked up the wicket of Mark Wood, and took a steepling catch in the deep to end England’s innings. He spoke at stumps about his pride at the landmark moment, and his desire to inspire young Indigenous kids to play the game. In cricket, role models have been in short supply, which sits in contrast to the football codes.
Given his debut, it’s worth noting that the Player of the Match in the Boxing Day Test now receives the Johnny Mullagh Medal, who led the Indigenous Australian tour of England in 1868. Last year, India’s Ajinkya Rahane became the inaugural winner.
An oddity of England’s innings: there were more threes (16) than fours (13). The MCG outfield is massive, and the morning rain made it a little slow, too. But perhaps it betrayed England’s struggles to time the ball, too.
Hazlewood, by the way, is still not quite fit after picking up an unusual injury in the series opener in Brisbane. He hopes he could be available for Sydney, but side strains are a mysterious business.
“I’m still a little bit away, (this Test) is probably a week early,” he told SEN. “It’s probably more on feel this one, it’s a bit of an interesting one, it’s the intercostals in between the ribs, there’s a slight tear.
“I’ve never had it before, I’ve had the normal oblique side strain, which is the common one, but we’re taking each day as it comes and we’ll make the decisions on basically how I feel.”
Surrey state of affairs
With the dropping of Ollie Pope and Rory Burns, England have no Surrey players in their side.
With that pair, Ben Foakes, Jason Roy, the Curran brothers, and Mark Stoneman all playing Test cricket in recent times, you have to go back to August 2017 against South Africa, 56 Tests ago, to find a Surrey-less England side.