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Jonny Bairstow knows England need to be “stronger and tougher” but only a remarkable shift in fortunes at the MCG will salvage their Ashes campaign after another costly batting collapse.
Australia enjoyed the festivities of Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test, rolling out their opponents for an underpowered score of 185 to complete another sorry day at the office for the tourists.
While England failed to piece together a single half-century stand, their opponents managed it at the first time of asking as David Warner (38) and Marcus Harris (20no) put on 57 in a stumps score of 61 for one.
The three biggest errors came from England’s core leadership group – captain Joe Root giving a soft edge away from his body, Ben Stokes with an ugly slash and Jos Buttler guilty of a rush of blood against Nathan Lyon.
Bairstow was not involved in the previous disappointments in Brisbane and Adelaide but witnessed some sloppy dismissals first hand and accepts things must change.
“We’ve got to get a bit stronger and tougher with our dismissals,” he said.
“We know that and we’ve spoken about that, that is just being honest with ourselves. I can tell you now everyone is trying. It’s one of those days that we will look back on, probably reassess next time and potentially take different options. We’re still searching for that big score.”
Root, who was dismissed for an even 50 as he took his tally of unconverted half-centuries in Australia to nine, started the day by losing the toss and Bairstow believes the initiative went with it.
Play had been delayed by half-an-hour due to rain, leaving a sluggish outfield that kept the boundary count down and giving the seamers plenty of encouragement during the opening exchanges.
England had chosen to bat in similar conditions in the series opener, when they set the tone for the tour by slumping to 147 all out, but Bairstow insisted they would not have missed the opportunity a second time.
“When you look at the toss it didn’t go our way. We’d have looked to bowl as well,” he said.
“Both teams were looking to bowl on that pitch, with the helpful conditions and a tinge of green. It was no surprise to be put in. With the weather around – rain and cloud cover – it was always going to be the plan to put us into bat.”
England need to start strongly on day two to have any chance of getting back into the game and the identity of Australia’s overnight batters gives a faint glimmer of optimism. Harris is under pressure for his place after a lean run and tailender Lyon was sent out following James Anderson’s late dismissal of Warner.
A fitting return to the MCG for our Aussie men, who are in a commanding position after day one of the Boxing Day Test!
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) December 26, 2021
Take out both quickly and the momentum could change but there are precious few runs to play with if plan A goes awry.
Bairstow added: “We’re bowling on the same pitch they bowled on. We’ve seen the pitch offer plenty throughout the day and we’ve got one end potentially open with a nightwatchman so we’ll look to put pressure on him and Harris to get some early inroads. We’re still in this game until the last ball is bowled.”
It was a proud day for debutant and Victorian local Scott Boland, who became just the fourth Indigenous Australian to play Test cricket, and the second to do so for the men’s team following Jason Gillespie.
He received the biggest cheers for his lbw dismissal of Mark Wood and two catches in the deep, capping a dream call-up.
“I was pretty proud and my family is as well. It means a lot to join a pretty small club,” he said.
“Hopefully it’s just the start of something big for the Indigenous community in cricket, if I can be a role model for young Indigenous kids to play.”