England lose four wickets in 40 minutes as Ashes hopes go up in smoke at raucous MCG

Australia vs England, Ashes 2021-22 live: score and latest updates from third Test day two in Melbourne - PA
Australia vs England, Ashes 2021-22 live: score and latest updates from third Test day two in Melbourne - PA
  • Australia vs England, third Ashes Test: live scoreboard

  • Two members of England support staff and two family members test positive for Covid

  • Players test negative and receive all-clear to travel to ground; start of play delayed by 30 minutes

  • Tourists bowl well in first two sessions but Australians end first innings with 82-run lead

  • Disaster then strikes as England fall to 31 for four as Aussies blow tourists away in last hour

It was an hour that put Australia within touching distance of retaining the Ashes and a reminder of what an electrifying sport Test cricket can be when fast bowlers as good as Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc get a scent of English blood.

They hurled themselves at the top order, carried every step of the way by fans beating on the ad boards and plastic chairs at the MCG, to undo all the spade work by James Anderson and leave England reeling at 31 for four, 51 behind Australia and any faint hopes of winning this game all but extinguished.

It was too much for Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed, two young openers ill equipped for this sort of working over by two pace bowlers hitting the splice, gloves and arm guards at above 90mph.

Australia had an 82-run first innings lead, which added up to more than the combined averages this year of four of England’s top seven, and 12 overs to do some serious damage.

Cummins was magnificent, ruthlessly setting the tone for his team with a nasty first ball that hammered into Hameed’s arm guard and looped over the slips.

Crawley’s second and third balls from Cummins beat him on the outside and inside edge, one cannoning painfully into his thigh. He nicked Cummins between keeper and slip in his next over, the charmed life was not going to be a long one.

In his third over Starc angled one across Crawley who pushed forward and edged behind. He lingered for the verdict before walking off with an average this year now down to 10.

Dawid Malan is one of two form players but he was beaten for pace, his bat a long way from the ball as it thumped into his pad. Starc appealed and it looked leg side. Malan reviewed the verdict and it was just shaving the leg stump. Starc was on a hat-trick.

Joe Root has faced many challenges on this tour. As he took guard, with four slips lurking, and Starc searching for a third wicket in as many balls he must have wondered what could possibly be thrown at him next. Starc’s delivery just missed the outside edge by millimetres. Starc looked to the heavens, Root gave a cheeky smile and the slips all stood with hands on head.

Hameed somehow survived the Starc-Cummins assault but it was draining stuff. Scott Boland’s change of pace did the trick, a good ball nipped away outside off and Hameed edged it. When Jack Leach shouldered arms to his second ball, Boland had two in three deliveries, the local hero revelling in the moment. “It sounded like 100,000 people, not 30,000,” said Marcus Harris.

The crowd booed as Ben Stokes took an age to emerge onto the field, hastily rummaging for pads and gloves in the enormous MCG dressing room. Root negotiated the final over from Cummins, driving the last ball down the ground for three, but the damage was done. Starc was magnificent and Boland benefited from Cummins’s ferociousness. In 12 overs of hard, brutal cricket Australia had grabbed hold of the Boxing Day Test.

“They've performed like that in Test matches for a long time, so it's disappointing to lose four wickets in those 12 overs,” said Anderson afterwards, the cracks between bowlers and batsmen are clear but this was one collapse that was forgivable. It was tough surviving out there and Malan was unlucky with his lbw call.

Earlier this month was the 19th anniversary of Anderson’s debut for England, on this ground in a one-day international. Anderson was belted around that night by Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting but Nasser Hussain, then captain, praised Anderson’s “character” for coming back to take Gilchrist’s wicket, the first of 926 for England in all forms.

The character remains as strong, if not stronger, 7,000 overs later for England and was evident this week in his Telegraph Sport column when he prickled at Root’s assertion he bowled too short in Adelaide. He responded with his best performance in Australia for 10 years taking four for 33, which when broken down was three for 19 off 18 overs on day two. Yes, he took five for 43 in Adelaide four years ago but that was with the pink ball in the twilight hour when conditions were made for him.

This time it was a sunny afternoon in Melbourne and while the pitch was assisting bowlers who hit the seam, Anderson was defending a total 75 below what it should have been.

James Anderson celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Marcus Harris during day 2 of the Third Test - REUTERS
James Anderson celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Marcus Harris during day 2 of the Third Test - REUTERS

His best spell in the lead up to lunch removed Steve Smith for 16, Anderson bowled six overs for one run, the run coming off a half chance of a catch down the leg side for Jos Buttler. Smith was beaten on the inside and outside edges before he played on, deceived by the slightest of movement off the pitch.

Mark Wood was the ideal foil, bowling at high pace throughout the day, quicker than anyone else, unsettling Australian footwork and also maintaining good control. He removed Marnus Labuschagne, caught at first slip for one, hitting the channel at high pace outside off stump, similar to the way he dismissed Smith in Brisbane.

At lunch Australia were four down, trailing by 54 but on the restart England had one of those spells of play when they switch off and allow opponents some breathing space. For some reason, Root brought on Leach rather than Wood or Anderson and allowed Travis Head and Harris to ease their way into the session.

Harris fell short of his first Test century, Anderson reminding him of his limitations every time he beat the edge. Harris made 76 gutsy runs, keeping his place in the side before Anderson finally got the edge to slip.

Stokes and Leach struck important blows with the old ball removing Alex Carey and Cam Green but the tail offered enough resistance to nudge the lead upwards; England’s low first innings total impossible to escape.

Third Test, day two - as it happened

07:53 AM

Here's how Jack Leach was out

07:51 AM

Jimmy Anderson speaks

“It was very disappointing finish to the day. We bowled well to put pressure on the Australians. Then we had a challenging 12 overs. It was a great spell from Starc and Cummins but you expect that. It was disappointing to lose four wickets. It’s been a disappointing tour so far - it was a really frustrating end to the day. We know how hard the batters and bowlers are working…the cohesion is there. It’s just frustrating at the moment.”

07:38 AM

That familiar sinking feeling

Same old, same old for England. They are still 51 runs behind and four wickets down. They somehow need to eke out some sort of lead tomorrow morning. But having bowled so well in the first two sessions their failings with the bat have once again come back to haunt them and all but ended their faint Ashes hopes.

Scott Boland celebrates taking the wicket of Jack Leach  - PA
Scott Boland celebrates taking the wicket of Jack Leach - PA

07:35 AM

OVER 12: ENG 31/4 (Stokes 2* Root 12*)

The final over sees future Australian pace GOAT Cummins bowl to Root. The England skipper mercifully survives, getting three runs in the process. Phew…

That is stumps.

07:30 AM

OVER 11: ENG 23/4 (Stokes 1* Root 9*)

This is yet another head in hands moment for England. There have been far too many this series and it’s hard to see how England do anything other than get stuffed once again from here.

Stokes is in for the final ball of that impressive Boland over. The good news is he survives it, getting a single. England will take anything they can get at the moment and, such is the dire situation they again find themselves in, that is worthy of some sort of sarcastic celebration.

07:27 AM

Wicket! Leach b Boland 0

Leach is the nightwatchman, he has three balls to survive. He survives the first but is bowled the second not playing a shot. Dear oh dear oh dear…

FOW - 22/4

07:25 AM

Wicket! Hameed c Carey b Boland 7

Local hero Boland replaces Starc. Hameed leaves the first two deliveries BUT then Victorian bowler bowls a tighter line and length and Hameed edges to Carey when perhaps he could and should have again left it.

FOW - 22/3

07:21 AM

OVER 10: ENG 22/2 (Hameed 7* Root 9*)

It’s Cummins to Root and it’s a maiden. There are nine or so minutes to go, so two more overs for England to survive today.

07:17 AM

OVER 9: ENG 22/2 (Hameed 7* Root 9*)

Starc continues and Root gets a single. Hameed is on strike. He drives crisply down the ground for four. That’s the first real shot of authority from the opener, he let the ball come to him and timed it well. Five from the over.

07:14 AM

It's only one shot but it's something to cheer England fans

07:13 AM

OVER 8: ENG 17/2 (Hameed 3* Root 8*)

Cummins is a metronome at 90mph - he again has a decent lbw shout to Hameed that’s given not out. Again he doesn’t review and again it’s the right decision with the replay showing it would have gone over the stumps. It’s a maiden.

07:09 AM

OVER 7: ENG 17/2 (Hameed 3* Root 8*)

Hameed tickles one round the corner for a single. The best place to bat at the moment is off strike at the other end - result for the England opener.

Root then drives at a full, wide Starc delivery that flies through the vacant fourth slip region - they are well on top and it's a surprise that the Australians don't have as many close catchers as possible. That was a loose shot but one that gets him four.

07:05 AM

OVER 6: ENG 12/2 (Hameed 2* Root 4*)

Cummins wraps Hameed on the pads and it’s another good shout for lbw. It’s given not out and the skipper decides not to review - the replay shows it’s the right decision as it was going over the stumps. A single gets Root on strike and he’s beaten first up by another Cummins peach. The England captain then plays a delightful shot for four down the ground - how the tourists needed that.

07:03 AM

Here's how Crawley got out

07:00 AM

OVER 5: ENG 7/2 (Hameed 1* Root 0*)

It’s deja-vu all over again. England are two wickets down without many runs on the board. Root comes out with Starc on a hat-trick and he beats the England captain’s bat BUT it doesn’t get the edge - phew. What an over from the Aussie quick and what another early disaster for the tourists.

06:57 AM

Wicket! Malan lbw b Starc 0

First ball Starc bowls a tight line and wraps Malan on the pads. It’s given out on the pitch but the left-hander reviews. The replay shows it’s umpire’s call and England find themselves once again in deep, deep trouble.

FOW - 7/2

06:55 AM

Wicket! Crawley c Carey b Starc 5

England and Crawley have had a bit of luck so far but that good fortune ends when the opener nicks an angled Starc delivery behind into the grateful gloves of Carey.

FOW - 7/1

06:51 AM

OVER 4: ENG 7/0 (Hameed 1* Crawley 5*)

Cummins is always at you and he wraps Crawley’s pad first ball. The slips manage a half-hearted appeal but it was never really challenging the stumps. He then bowls yet another jaffa - this one takes the edge of the bat and falls between Carey and Warner and goes for four. As with his dismissal in the first innings the England man was squared up. To state the obvious, this is a testing time for the England openers, survival is the only aim at the moment.

06:46 AM

OVER 3: ENG 2/0 (Hameed 1* Crawley 0*)

Hameed is looking to get forward and plays out a maiden from Starc but not before playing a loose shot final ball which he could so easily have edged behind.

06:43 AM

OVER 2: ENG 2/0 (Hameed 1* Crawley 0*)

Cummins bowls an absolute brute of a ball that rises sharply at the head of Hameed. The ball balloons off the arm guard and over the slips for a single. That wasn’t too short and the opener did well to avoid getting out to it. Crawley is on strike and is beaten all ends up by another Cummins peach, this one pitches on off stump and seams away. He’s such a great bowler and it's no mean feat surviving an opening spell from the Aussie skipper.

06:38 AM

OVER 1: ENG 1/0 (Hameed 1* Crawley 0*)

England’s opening partnerships so far this series have been 0, 23, 7, 4 and 4. It goes without saying that with a deficit of 82 they need a lot more this innings. England need to be looking at 250ish as a minimum.

Starc opens for Australia and he’s bowling to Hameed, who is low on runs (six in his past three innings) and confidence. First ball is full and very wide and Hameed can leave that well alone, as he can the following two deliveries. He gets off the mark with a flick off his hip and he’s off the dreaded pair. Crawley faces the final ball of the over and leaves it well. First over down and no damage done, phew.

06:32 AM

How the innings ended

06:26 AM

Australia lead by 82 runs

England have fought back brilliantly today, lead by the ever-impressive Jimmy Anderson. But, not wanting to be too pessimistic, you suspect that considering (i) England's batting this tour so far, and, (ii) the fact this is a low-scoring match, that that 82-run lead is probably too much for Root and Co. Let's hope they prove me wrong.

England will now have a tricky 55-minute period to eat into that lead without losing too many wickets.

06:23 AM

Wicket! Boland c Crawley b Wood 6

Wood returns and you suspect he’s going to bowl short but first up he gives Boland a half volley which he clips for three through mid-wicket. Not what Root wanted - Starc is now back on strike. The left-hander gets two down to third man and the runs over the past hour have come all too easily for the hosts. It’s all over when Wood has Boland caughtat second slip by Crawley.

FOW - 267 all out

06:15 AM

OVER 87: AUS 261/9 (Starc 21* Boland 3*)

Starc gets a single off the first ball to leave Boland on strike. Anderson beats the debutant’s bat with a peach of a full delivery. But next ball Boland gets a thick outside edge for two down to third man. Four from the over and the lead is now 76.

06:12 AM

OVER 86: AUS 257/9 (Starc 20* Boland 0*)

Robinson is back on the pitch and is going to bowl straight away - so it wasn’t a pulled hamstring that forced him off two overs ago, which is a huge relief for Root and England. A Starc single leaves Boland to survive or thrive three balls. A leg bye gets Starc back on strike and he pulls for one to the mid-wicket boundary. The Australian lead is now 72 - anyone like me think that’s too many already?

06:07 AM

OVER 85: AUS 254/9 (Starc 18* Boland 0*)

Anderson now has four wickets and that’s England’s first four-for this series. A Starc single gets new boy Boland on strike and he leaves his first ball in Test cricket well. He then defends his second ball with equal aplomb before another leave ends the over. The lead is 69.

06:04 AM

Wicket! Cummins c Hameed b Anderson 21

Cummins tries to pull Anderson but only succeeds in giving Hameed a looping catch at gully.

FOW - 253/9

06:02 AM

OVER 84: AUS 253/8 (Starc 17* Cummins 21*)

Robinson replaces Wood and second ball he drops a firmly struck drive from Starc right back at him. It was a very tough chance but, if you’re being harsh (as in extremely harsh), England needed him to pull off the spectacular there as you feel this partnership is already 20 runs too many. The England bowler then has to walk off, clutching his leg. Stokes has to complete the over, Starc gets one to squirt for two through extra-cover before he gets another two and then pulls for four. The lead is now 68 and this is a slow, painful watch at the moment.

05:55 AM

OVER 83: AUS 245/8 (Starc 9* Cummins 21*)

Anderson does what he does best first up, beating Cummins’ bat. The next ball then spits up off a length, we’ve seen a few of those today - not what you want to see as an opening batsman due to bat before too long…Anderson again beats Cummins’ outside edge and it’s a maiden.

05:51 AM

OVER 82: AUS 245/8 (Starc 9* Cummins 21*)

Wood continues and is met with an imperious drive by Cummins for four down the ground. Anderson then nearly pulls off a great catch, diving at mid-on from a Cummins swipe. He just cannot hold on to the ball, it’s three runs saved, though. Five from the over and the lead is now 60. England have had problems blowing away tails and this pair are proving to be obdurate.

05:47 AM

OVER 81: AUS 240/8 (Starc 9* Cummins 16*)

No shock to see Anderson, who’s bowled so well today, take the new ball. Three singles are taken from the first four deliveries (Anderson didn’t concede three runs from a six-over spell earlier). The lead is no up to 55 - there seem to be too many easy singles on offer at the moment.

05:42 AM

OVER 80: AUS 236/8 (Starc 7* Cummins 14*)

The last over before the new ball sees Australia add three runs to their score and the lead is now over 50.

05:38 AM

OVER 79: AUS 233/8 (Starc 5* Cummins 13*)

Stokes replaces Leach, Root doubtless mindful that the spinner would have been targeted by this pair trying to get the lead to over 50 before the new ball is taken. Just a single from the first three balls before Cummins threads one through the covers for two. The captain then scampers a single. All of these runs could prove crucial…the lead is up to 48.

05:33 AM

OVER 78: AUS 228/8 (Starc 3* Cummins 10*)

Wood replaces Stokes after his Durham team-mate’s one-over spell saw the end of Carey. Cummins gets a single that gets Starc on strike. Wood is bowling at pace and the pair, wanting to tee off and get as many runs as possible before the new ball, are unable to find the boundary. Two from the over.

05:28 AM

OVER 77: AUS 226/8 (Starc 2* Cummins 9*)

Starc loves a big heave ho and you fancy him to go after Leach. The new batsman gets a single second ball and Cummins then plays a delightful drive over the infield for four down the ground. Both these tailenders are no mugs with the bat. Six from the over and the lead is up to 41.

05:25 AM

OVER 76: AUS 220/8 (Starc 1* Cummins 4*)

Starc comes to the wicket with the lead at 34. England are doing what they need to - they’ve snared two wickets for 13 runs over the past three or so overs.

05:22 AM

Wicket! Carey c Buttler b Stokes 19

Stokes returns and is immediately tucked away off his pads by Carey for three. But two balls later, after a Cummins single, Carey drives airily and is caught by Buttler.

FOW - 219/8

05:18 AM

OVER 75: AUS 215/7 (Carey 16* Cummins 3*)

Thanks to that wicket Leach is hitting the wicket with confidence and he gets one to turn and bounce that takes Cummins’ outside edge, but the ball flies into open space. Leach has looked dangerous when pitching the ball right up. Four from the over.

05:16 AM

Leach gets his man

05:15 AM

OVER 74: AUS 211/7 (Carey 15* Cummins 0*)

Carey gets two off Robinson before the England seamer gets one to beat the left-hander’s bat with one angled across. Carey then pushes another two straight down the ground. Every run could prove crucial with the lead now 26.

05:12 AM

OVER 73: AUS 207/7 (Carey 11* Cummins 0*)

The skipper strides to the wicket with the lead at 22 runs with three wickets in hand. Cummins is a decent batsman, can he help extend the lead to somewhere near the 50-run mark?

05:10 AM

Wicket! Green lbw b Leach 17

Leach continues and Carey again sweeps him for a single. That gets Green on strike and he nearly edges behind with the ball too close to cut. Leach then gets one to drift in and wraps the beanpole batsman on the pads. It’s given out lbw on the pitch and and review is a forlorn one for the Aussies, with the replay showing it would have just clipped leg stump - umpire’s call.

FOW - 207/7

05:05 AM

OVER 71: AUS 206/6 (Carey 10* Green 17*)

The Test is finely poised but in a low-scoring game can’t help but feel that England need the remaining four Australian wickets very soon. A lead of anything over 40-50 runs, the way England have been batting, may well be too much.

Anyway, enough pessimism from me, Robinson has the ball first over after the break, nine overs until the new ball. He starts with a bouncer that Green easily ducks under. Two balls later Green plays the most authoritative shot I’ve seen him play - a glorious on-drive for four - who doesn’t love seeing that shot played well? Six from the over.

04:55 AM

Greg Wilcox

Is taking the reins of the blog for the final session and will be seeing it through to stumps.

04:41 AM

OVER 70: AUS 200/6 (Carey 9* Green 12*)

Leach back into the attack for the final over of the afternoon session.

Carey reverse sweeps a full delivery for a couple, then sweeps conventionally for two more.

And that's tea. Australia have a lead of 15 and the game is finely poised.

04:36 AM

OVER 69: AUS 196/6 (Carey 5* Green 12*)

Ouch. Carey takes his eye off a short ball from Wood and it smashes into his shoulder.

That one will definitely leave a mark.

Carey manages to make his way down to the other end with a push into the off-side.

04:32 AM

OVER 69: AUS 195/6 (Carey 4* Green 12*)

Three to Carey's tally from this Stokes over - a glance behind square for a couple and then a flick down to long leg to retain the strike.

04:28 AM

OVER 68: AUS 192/6 (Carey 1* Green 12*)

Close! Carey drops the ball in the off-side and sets off for a single... Hameed swoops, has a shy - and Green would be gone with a direct hit!

The fielder had one stump to aim at but just misses the target and the big all-rounder survives.

Then another vicious ball from Wood smashes into the splice of Green's bat and balloons up into the air - but drops just short of an England fielder.

Green tucks the final ball of the over away for four down to fine leg.

04:22 AM

OVER 67: AUS 187/6 (Carey 0* Green 8*)

Green edges the first ball of Stokes' new spell along the floor through gully - and Australia have a lead (of one run).

04:17 AM

OVER 66: AUS 184/6 (Carey 0* Green 6*)

Another Anderson over. Another maiden.

04:13 AM

OVER 65: AUS 184/6 (Carey 0* Green 6*)

Oof. The first ball of Wood's over explodes off the pitch and smashes into Green's top glove, falling just short of Hameed at point.

That is another savage delivery from the Durham paceman.

Green eases the final ball of the over off his hips for two.

04:09 AM

OVER 64: AUS 182/6 (Carey 0* Green 4*)

Just the one from this Anderson over - Green chops a back-foot drive into the covers.

Half an hour until tea, another wicket (or three) would be nice...

04:06 AM

OVER 63: AUS 181/6 (Carey 0* Green 3*)

Wood absolutely tearing in here and gets some steepling bounce past Green's outside edge!

That was a brutish delivery and not far away from a nick.

Green manages to get off strike and then Carey plays out the last three balls. He's still yet to get off the mark.

04:01 AM

OVER 62: AUS 180/6 (Carey 0* Green 2*)

Wicket maiden for Anderson who removes Harris and then raps the new man Carey on the glove with one that spits off a good length.

Anderson now has figures of: 17 overs, eight maidens, three for 23. Majestic.

03:57 AM

Wicket! Harris c Root b Anderson 76

England's maestro strikes again! What a genius.

Round the wicket to the left-hander, straightens and takes the edge - and Root claims a decent grab.

Australia still trail with just four wickets remaining.

FOW 180/6

03:56 AM

OVER 61: AUS 180/5 (Harris 76* Green 2*)

Shot. Leach tosses the first ball of this over up and Harris carves it through the covers for three.

Green very much in defensive mode and plays out the next five dot balls.

03:53 AM

OVER 60: AUS 177/5 (Harris 73* Green 2*)

Anderson back into the attack, Harris pushes down the ground for a single.

Green sees out the remainder of the over.

03:48 AM

OVER 59: AUS 176/5 (Harris 72* Green 2*)

Hmm. Leach keeps plugging away but he's struggled a bit with both line and length so far today.

And here's another case in point, drifting down the leg side to Harris who shovels the ball away for a couple off the back foot.

Then he strides forward and plonks the next delivery down the ground for a single.

Green defends the final three balls comfortably.

03:43 AM

OVER 58: AUS 173/5 (Harris 69* Green 2*)

Robinson continues probing away - and that's another maiden.

That will be drinks.

Not quite as good from the England bowlers since the lunch break but they will be cheered by the dismissal of Head.

03:37 AM

OVER 57: AUS 173/5 (Harris 69* Green 2*)

Green milks an easy single down the ground off Leach.

03:35 AM

OVER 56: AUS 172/5 (Harris 69* Green 1*)

That was a lovely bit of bowling from Robinson to dismiss the set batsman Head, the hint of shape away just tempted him to dangle his bat at a ball he could have left.

The new man Green gets off the mark with a push into the covers.

Travis Head walks off after losing his wicket - REUTERS
Travis Head walks off after losing his wicket - REUTERS

03:32 AM

Wicket! Head c Root b Robinson 27

Lovely bit of bowling from Robinson and Root makes no mistake!

From over the wicket, angled across the left-hander, darts away and the nick flies straight to the England captain!

FOW 171/5

03:29 AM

OVER 55: AUS 170/4 (Harris 69* Head 27*)

Head clips Leach into the leg side for a single.

Harris pokes the last four deliveries back without any bother.

The decision to continue bowling Leach here is very odd. Time for a change surely?

03:25 AM

OVER 54: AUS 169/4 (Harris 69* Head 26*)

Shot! Harris is quickly into position as Robinson drops a touch too short - and carves him behind square for four.

Sees out the rest of the over comfortably enough.

03:20 AM

OVER 53: AUS 165/4 (Harris 65* Head 26*)

One each for Harris and Head from this Leach over.

03:18 AM

OVER 52: AUS 163/4 (Harris 64* Head 25*)

Nagging line and length from Robinson who finds Harris's edge but it bounces just in front of Bairstow at third slip!

A maiden.

03:15 AM

OVER 51: AUS 163/4 (Harris 64* Head 25*)

Leach continues from over the wicket.

Head tries to swipe him towards midwicket but top-edges just past the man at square leg!

Now Harris advances down the track and Buttler misses a stumping!

Touch chance, fired down the leg side and turned a bit but Harris was miles out of his ground.

Buttler only just got his glove to it and they run two byes.

03:11 AM

OVER 50: AUS 157/4 (Harris 63* Head 22*)

Robinson replaces Wood - and nearly finds Harris's outside edge.

From over the wicket, he tempts the left-handed opener into a loose shot outside off but Harris only connects with fresh air.

Harris watches the final four balls of the over pass by the stumps.

A maiden.

03:06 AM

OVER 49: AUS 157/4 (Harris 63* Head 22*)

Head rotates the strikes and there's a change of plan for Leach mid-over, as he opts to switch from around to over the wicket.

Harris gets a big stride in and thumps him down to mid-on for a single.

03:03 AM

OVER 48: AUS 155/4 (Harris 62* Head 21*)

Frustration for Wood who beats Harris for pace outside off twice in the over - but doesn't manage to find the edge.

In between those two wafty play-and-misses, Harris slashed a fuller ball behind point for a couple.

02:59 AM

OVER 47: AUS 152/4 (Harris 60* Head 20*)

Leach continues... and Head is nearly run out!

He plays the spinner into the leg side and sets off for a quick single - but would be out if Stokes' shy at the bowler's end had hit the stumps!!

It whistles just past and Head survives. A close call.

02:56 AM

OVER 46: AUS 149/4 (Harris 59* Head 18*)

Wood steaming in - and taking another tumble for his troubles after he delivers the fourth ball of the over.

A maiden. Wood has shown some serious wheels in this Test so far.

02:52 AM

OVER 45: AUS 149/4 (Harris 59* Head 18*)

One each for Harris and Head off this Leach over. Not much of a threat from the spinner so far.

Given England's seamers bowled so well in the first session it seems an odd choice to start with the Somerset man straight after the interval.

You'd assume he won't be given a particularly long leash.

02:49 AM

OVER 44: AUS 147/4 (Harris 58* Head 17*)

Shot! Harris brings up his fifty with an on-drive down the ground off Wood, who goes sprawling to the turf after delivering the ball.

The opener just leant on it and they stroll through for three.

Head pilfers a single before Harris opens the face behind point and the ball races away for four.

He adds another couple to his score with a well-timed punch through the covers.

02:43 AM

OVER 43: AUS 137/4 (Harris 49* Head 16*)

England's left-arm spinner Leach around the wicket to the left-handed Head.

Two dots to start before a horrible drag down from Leach is dismissively swatted away for four.

Then Head clips the next delivery down the ground for one.

Harris nicks the strike off the final ball with a flick off his hip.

02:41 AM

The players are back out on the field

Leach v Head to get us under way.

02:21 AM

Some lunchtime (2am) reading

From our chief sports writer Oliver Brown on England's dismal batting.

02:03 AM

OVER 42: AUS 131/4 (Harris 48* Head 11*)

Wood charging in for what will most likely be the last over of the session - and he beats Harris outside off with a beauty!

Just short of a good length and zipped past Harris's defensive poke.

Then Harris leans on an on-drive for two before working Wood away towards midwicket for a couple more.

And then Durham paceman beats the bat again with the final ball of the session!

That's lunch. England will be delighted with their efforts to far today - three wickets including Smith and Labuschagne and they beat the bat on numerous occasions too.

01:57 AM

OVER 41: AUS 127/4 (Harris 44* Head 11*)

Root gives Leach a whirl before lunch, but he gets his angles wrong from around the wicket to the left-handed Head and is worked away fine for a couple.

Head rotates the strike with a clip to leg, before Harris pilfers a single from the final ball.

01:53 AM

OVER 40: AUS 123/4 (Harris 43* Head 8*)

Anderson's superb spell (six overs, five maidens, one for one!) comes to an end, with Robinson replacing him.

But the new bowler drops too short and Head crunches a wide ball through point for four to break the shackles after those back-to-back maidens.

And then he adds three more with a back-foot punch through the covers.

01:48 AM

OVER 39: AUS 116/4 (Harris 43* Head 1*)

Wood with a maiden too as England look to turn the screw.

Another update on today's Covid chaos, courtesy of Nick Hoult in Melbourne:

Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia chief executive, was in bullish mood and insisted it was "business as usual" despite the Covid outbreak in the England camp.

Both teams will undergo PCR testing later after two England coaches and two travelling family members tested positive, throwing the rest of the Test in doubt. Play was delayed by 30 minutes while players returned negative lateral flow tests.

"We have a very comprehensive and regular PCR testing regime throughout the tour, as far as we're concerned it's business as usual but tonight the entire group will be tested," said Hockley at the MCG.

"Both playing groups have been fantastic in observing the protocols, this morning's events [are] a sign of the times. We just need to remain calm, get the facts, everyone needs to follow medical advice and on that basis...we keep going. That's part of continuing elite sport and major events at this time.

"We are being extra vigilant as there are increasing cases in the community but our protocols are designed for absolutely this set of events. We've got strong protocols, comprehensive testing and the players have been fantastic."

01:44 AM

OVER 38: AUS 116/4 (Harris 43* Head 1*)

A(nother) maiden for Anderson. Just over 15 minutes until lunch - England's bowlers have been excellent so far but they would dearly love another wicket before the interval...

01:40 AM

OVER 37: AUS 116/4 (Harris 43* Head 1*)

Wood returns for another quickfire burst.

The Aussie pair share a single each, before the paceman finds the edge of Harris's bat.

But no real danger - he plays it well, angled into the turf with soft hands and it runs away for four.

01:35 AM

OVER 36: AUS 110/4 (Harris 38* Head 0*)

Anderson has the ball on a string at the moment!

After dismissing Smith, he beats the new batsman Head all ends up first ball with another jaffa - which angles in then jags away late off the seam.

Another two balls nip past the outside edge to end the over. England have been excellent so far - bar those sloppy three overs at the very start of the day.

01:29 AM

Wicket!! Smith b Anderson 16

England are right back in this all of a sudden!

Anderson has bowled absolutely brilliantly and gets the bit of luck he deserves - Smith inside-edging on to his stumps.

Huge wicket for the tourists.

FOW 110/4

01:27 AM

OVER 35: AUS 110/3 (Harris 38* Smith 16*)

Lovely back-foot punch from Smith for a couple off Stokes, and he rotates the strike next ball too.

Then Stokes strays too straight to Harris and is clipped into the leg side for two more.

01:25 AM

OVER 34: AUS 105/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Close! And again!! Wonderful stuff from Anderson.

The English maestro is in his groove and he's giving Harris a serious working over - but without quite getting the rewards he deserves.

Anderson beats the opener twice in four balls with deliveries which are angled in before darting away past the outside edge.

01:21 AM

OVER 33: AUS 105/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Close! Lovely stuff from Stokes who gets one to nibble away a touch and it just beats the edge of Smith's bat!

Now Stokes opts for some short stuff - but this one is much too short and it bounces miles over the batsman's head.

In fact, it's (probably rightly) judged a wide. Smith ducker under another bouncer and then leaves well alone outside off.

01:17 AM

OVER 32: AUS 104/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Smith gets off strike courtesy of a leg bye, the ball slamming into his pad and deflecting behind square on the leg side.

Anderson probing outside off stump to Harris who is beaten by one which nips away off the seam!

But the left-handed opener plays back the next couple solidly enough.

01:11 AM

OVER 31: AUS 103/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Harris is rapped on the front pad by a Stokes in-swinger... huge appeal from England and it's given out on the field!

But Harris reviews straight away and it looks like he's hit it.

Yep, inside edge on to the pad and the decision is overturned.

01:04 AM

OVER 30: AUS 103/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Smith has been pretty skittish (even by his standards) so far but is slightly more watchful this over.

He plays out a maiden from Anderson - leaving four and defending two.

And that's drinks. England will be more than happy with the first hour.

01:01 AM

OVER 29: AUS 103/3 (Harris 36* Smith 13*)

Plenty of rotation of his bowlers already by England skipper Root, who opts to bring Stokes in for Wood.

And he immediately draws an edge from Smith - but it flies straight through a gap at second slip and runs away for four!

Smith in behind the next couple solidly before an uppish pull out to square leg for three.

Harris punches behind point for two more to end the over.

12:56 AM

OVER 28: AUS 94/3 (Harris 34* Smith 6*)

Anderson back into the attack, replacing Robinson - and Buttler drops Smith from the first ball of the over!

It was a tough, tough chance with Smith inside-edging on to his pad. Buttler was full length to his left but could only get his fingertips to the ball and they run through for a single.

Anderson asks serious questions of Harris and beats him all ends up outside off with an absolute jaffa which nips away off the seam.

12:52 AM

OVER 27: AUS 93/3 (Harris 34* Smith 5*)

Wood is charging in at 90mph but Smith looks like he has all the time in the world, clipping the England quick out to a gap at midwicket and the Aussies saunter through for three.

Harris rotates the strike with a leg-side nudge before Smith plays tip-and-run into the off-side and they scamper through for another single.

12:47 AM

OVER 26: AUS 88/3 (Harris 33* Smith 1*)

Robinson continues - and Harris adds another three to his tally with a leg-side flick.

It was just slightly too straight and Harris punched it away behind square for a comfortably-run three.

Smith off the mark courtesy of a leg-side nudge.

12:43 AM

OVER 25: AUS 84/3 (Harris 30* Smith 0*)

Excellent start for Wood who replaces Anderson and snares a big wicket in his first over.

Harris managed to get himself off strike courtesy of a lovely push down the ground for three before Labuschagne was drawn into the nick.

Smith comes in at No 5 and is squared up first ball, but England's Ashes nemesis manages to negotiate the over.

12:40 AM

Wicket!! Labuschagne c Root b Wood 1

Now then! Wood troubles Labuschagne with his extra pace, finding the top edge of the bat and Root does the honours at first slip!

FOW 84/3

Marnus Labuschagne rues a rare failure - AP
Marnus Labuschagne rues a rare failure - AP

12:34 AM

OVER 24: AUS 81/2 (Harris 27* Labuschagne 1*)

Another decent over from Robinson, marred only by the England bowler overstepping - a common problem for the tourists' attack so far.

He gets one delivery to bite off the pitch and it slams into Labuschagne's midriff, briefly felling the Aussie No 4.

But Labuschagne is OK to continue, and digs out a yorker to end the over.

12:30 AM

OVER 23: AUS 80/2 (Harris 27* Labuschagne 1*)

Harris looking solid in defence so far, and he plays back a maiden from Anderson with the minimum of fuss.

12:27 AM

OVER 22: AUS 80/2 (Harris 27* Labuschagne 1*)

Good stuff from Robinson who is asking questions of Labuschagne in and around fourth stump.

The newly-crowned No 1 Test batsman plays back a couple before unfurling one of his trademark expansive leaves.

Labuschagne gets off the mark via a thick edge from a defensive push which runs away behind square on the leg side.

Harris nabs the strike from the final delivery with a whip down to long leg.

12:22 AM

OVER 21: AUS 78/2 (Harris 26* Labuschagne 0*)

Just a couple to Harris from this Anderson over, courtesy of a nicely-placed tickle into the leg side.

Marcus Harris has looked in decent touch to start the day - GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Harris has looked in decent touch to start the day - GETTY IMAGES

12:18 AM

OVER 20: AUS 76/2 (Harris 24* Labuschagne 0*)

A wicket maiden for Robinson who removes Lyon - the wicket ball was pitched slightly further up and tempted the Aussie off-spinner into a drive.

Labuschagne watches his first couple of deliveries pass harmlessly by his stumps.

12:14 AM

Wicket! Lyon c Buttler b Robinson 10

Regulation nick, easily snaffled by Buttler behind the stumps.

England have the breakthrough!

FOW 76/2

12:13 AM

OVER 19: AUS 76/1 (Harris 24* Lyon 10*)

Lyon gets off strike courtesy of a leg bye from this Anderson over.

Then Harris dabs through the cordon with soft hands for four more.

Decent start for the Aussies here, they've added 14 in the first three overs - not quite the start England would have been hoping for.

12:09 AM

OVER 18: AUS 71/1 (Harris 20* Lyon 10*)

Back-to-back boundaries to Lyon from Robinson's first over!

The first is a rank long-hop which Lyon clubs over midwicket - and a thick edge races away through the cordon for four more!!

Decent response from Robinson who draws Lyon into a play-and-miss outside off stump.

Lyon nurdles into the leg side to retain the strike from the final delivery.

12:04 AM

OVER 17: AUS 62/1 (Harris 20* Lyon 1*)

Anderson has the ball in his hand to start the day, but he doesn't quite find his groove to the Aussie nightwatchman.

Lyon works him away for a single before Harris gets in behind solidly for the final three deliveries.

11:58 PM

Nearly time to turn our attentions to on-field matters

A reminder of how things stand...

England were bowled out for 185 on day one as their woeful batting on this tour continued, while Australia will resume on 61 for one, with Marcus Harris and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon the not out batsmen overnight.

The tourists are 2-0 down in the series and will feel they have to bowl the Aussies out for under 300 here to have any chance of coming back.

11:49 PM

Full statement from Cricket Australia

"Cricket Australia has been informed that two members of the England cricket team’s support staff and two of their family members have returned a positive Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Test. The affected individuals are currently isolating.

"The entire playing group and all other support staff have undertaken Rapid Antigen Tests this morning and all have tested negative. The England cricket team will also have PCR tests today, and both teams will take extra precautions throughout play. Both playing squads remain unchanged.

"There is currently no further impact on fans or other parts of the venue. Cricket Australia and the MCC will continue to monitor the situation and follow the endorsed Victorian Government Covid-Safe Event Plan."

I'm fairly surprised play is going ahead today given the confirmation there have been four cases in the England camp - you would imagine that number can only increase over the coming days...

11:44 PM

Now FOUR confirmed cases in England camp

11:35 PM

England players warming up

Mark Wood doing his pre-match exercises - PA
Mark Wood doing his pre-match exercises - PA
James Anderson warms up before the start of day two - PA
James Anderson warms up before the start of day two - PA

11:23 PM

Today's session times

Have been slightly tweaked after that 30-minute delay to the start of play.

11:17 PM

'Some England coaches and two squad players isolating'

11:13 PM

30-minute delay to start of play

Confirmation that the start of play has been pushed back half an hour after England's late arrival - so it will begin at midnight in the UK (11am local time in Melbourne).

11:04 PM

'Pretty dramatic start to the day'

Here's BT Sport's Mel Farrell on how the day has unfolded so far...

"England were due to arrive about 8.30am but when they didn't arrive, news filtered through that they had been advised to stay at the hotel by medical staff.

"Then what appears to have happened is a family member of the touring party returned a positive test and was asymptomatic.

"The players have all had rapid flow tests and are now here at the ground... they are here but we still don't know how this will affect the timings - clearly they can't just step off their bus and straight on to the field."

10:54 PM

More from Nick Hoult here

It also emerged that a member of the Channel Seven commentary team had tested positive and the broadcaster had hastily put together a new line up for today’s play.

Both Channel Seven and Fox have split their commentary teams between Melbourne and Sydney to cut down the risk.

“The Seven Network confirms it is responding after a member of staff working on the Ashes broadcast at the MCG tested positive to COVID-19 on Sunday night,” said Seven in a statement.

“The staff member was asymptomatic at time of testing and has been in self isolation since the moment the positive result was returned.

“Seven is activating its COVID measures to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as the broader community, and is working in line with all relevant guidelines and regulations. We are working closely with the MCG operational team and Cricket Australia."

10:52 PM

Nick Hoult: England get all clear

Latest from our chief cricket correspondent Nick Hoult in Australia - it seems the England players' tests have all come back negative...

10:44 PM

Good evening!

England need a resounding fightback from their bowlers if they are to keep their Ashes hopes alive after another chastening opening day for Joe Root's side in Melbourne.

The captain top-scored with 50 but it was another woeful batting display by his team after Australia skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to turn the screw on England's top order.

Root was visibly frustrated at the tame manner of his dismissal. His was one of three unforced errors from senior men in a demoralising afternoon session, with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler also culpable as the tourists were eventually bowled out for 185.

After pointed criticism of his bowling unit after their second Test drubbing in Adelaide, Root now needs his attack to run through Australia - who reached 61 for one at the close after James Anderson removed David Warner.

The pressure will be on the returning Jack Leach to match Nathan Lyon - who claimed three first-innings wickets - on a pitch offering some spin.

When head coach Chris Silverwood set out his blueprint for the side two years ago it was built around one key concept: big first-innings runs. Major totals have simply not materialised, in either innings, and this was the 12th time in 15 Tests this year that England have been dismissed for less than 200.

Former England fast bowler Steven Finn - who was part of a winning Ashes tour in 2011 - believes the batters are confused in their approach.

"They seemed slightly muddled, and not entirely sure where to sit between being aggressive and trying to impose yourself on the game, but also having resolute defence at the same time," Finn told the BBC's Test Match Special.

"When you're looking at it and the way that they played beyond that first hour, I didn't see excessive seam movement. 185 is way below par."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting