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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

England loses Ashes in 12 days !! - nosedives to an innings defeat against total of 267 !!

Ashes is over – it is firmly Aussies .. .. !  the spectre of Covid-19 continued to loom over the Ashes after the number of positive cases in England’s touring party rose from four to six during the third Test in Melbourne. A round of PCR tests for players on both sides came back all clear before the start of the third day, allowing England to resume on 31 for four in their second innings, 51 runs behind and battling to prevent Australia claiming an unassailable 3-0 lead.  However, the emergence of two additional cases in the England group – up from four on day two and now featuring three coaches and three family members – suggests a spread is occurring.”  

Back home, Kolkatta Prince Sourav Ganguly has tested positive for Covid-19, and has been admitted to Kolkata's Woodlands Hospital. He had a mild fever on Sunday, and was tested for the virus soon after. Following the emergence of a positive report, on Monday evening, he checked into the hospital at night. It has been learnt from family sources that while there is no cause for alarm and that his condition is stable, 49-year-old Ganguly was advised by medical experts to avoid isolating at home and, instead, get admitted to the hospital, possibly because of some pre-existing health conditions. According to a PTI report, he has been administered both doses of the vaccine against Covid-19.

As Covid allowed play, down-under,  it was all over on third morning itself – the  coup de grâce came at 11.49am on the third morning, less than half way through the scheduled series, when Cameron Green pegged back Jimmy Anderson’s off-stump to secure an unassailable 3-0 lead. England were all out for a meagre 68 in just 27.4 overs, having somehow conspired to lose by an innings and 14 runs in a match where their opponents had stuck just 267 on the board.

This morning at Melbourne, after the Covid threat, Joe Root didn’t walk out   – he sprinted. The England captain charged ahead of teammate Ben Stokes and practised his forward defence right next to the Australian players as they approached the centre square. Stokes was calmer, taking his time as he waltzed towards the middle.   England’s last five wickets fell for just eight runs. Nothing of that mattered as  Root’s men were bowled out for 68, the side’s lowest total on Australian soil since 1904.

The Aussies needed just 12 days to retain the urn – England had spent more time isolating in hotel quarantine than it took for them to lose the Ashes.  England had lost 4/15 the previous evening, and the visitors needed another 51 runs to make the Aussies bat again. Australia have their eyes set on world domination after storming to Ashes glory with a crushing innings victory over a shell-shocked England in the Boxing Day Test. Not content with the urn remaining on these shores until 2023, skipper Pat Cummins also wants to get his hands on the World Test Championship trophy and re-establish Australia as the game’s pre-eminent team - as they were during his childhood.

Besides various presentation ceremonies, there was – ‘Johnny Mullagh Medal’ presented to the Player of the Match at the end of the Boxing Day Test - it  not only signifies the contribution of Indigenous Australians to the national game. At a time when issues of racial inequality have been given fresh impetus by the Black Lives Matter movement, last year's decision to create the Mullagh Medal in recognition of the captain of the all-Indigenous side to England in 1868 that was the first Australian side of any kind to tour internationally, cannot obscure the fact that the chances of any Indigenous players vying for it was slim. Not to be!

Unaarrimin, known as Johnny Mullagh, was part of the famous Australian Aborigine team which toured England in 1868, playing an eyebrow-raising total of 47 matches. A talented allrounder, Unaarrimin hit 1698 runs at an average of 23 and took 245 wickets at only 10 apiece. In 1869-70 he was appointed as a professional by the Melbourne Club but he returned home to Harrow (Victoria) after six games. In 1878-79 he appeared for Victoria against an England XI, scoring 4 and 36 - the latter was this side's top score and the 9,000 spectators collected £50 for him. He was a fierce advocate of Aboriginal rights, and refused to live on one of the state-controlled reserves. He lived in a rabbitter's shack, continuing to play cricket until a few months before his death in 1891, the day after his 50th birthday.

England lost, lost very badly – ignominy reaching new nadir with  their 68 all-out being the lowest Ashes total in Australia since 1936 and England's lowest total in Australia since 1904.  The scorecard reads :  Australia 267 (Harris 76, Anderson 4-33) beat England 185 (Root 50, Cummins 3-36, Lyon 3-36) and 68 (Boland 6-7, Starc 3-29) by an innings and 14 runs.. .. one would not have missed out reading - Scott Boland's six-wicket haul on his Test debut allowed Australia to wrap up the Ashes 3-0, by lunch on the third day at the MCG.

Australia's quicks continued their demolition job on England, with Boland adding to his two wickets from three balls during a devastating final hour on the second day, with four more on the third morning to seal an innings victory as the hosts retained the urn. Boland took six wickets in 21 balls in all while Mitchell Starc, who had a big hand in reducing England to 31 for 4 in a cauldron-like atmosphere on day two, added the wicket of Ben Stokes inside the first 25 minutes of the resumption, to end with 3 for 29.

The short day 3  belonged to Boland, who was selected as an MCG specialist after his performances for Victoria and who became the fourth Indigenous Australian to play Test cricket. After taking 1 for 48 in England's first innings, he was simply unplayable for a side with its confidence beaten and its batting in disarray. In a historic moment, Boland won the Mullagh Medal as Player of the Match.  Boland received a standing ovation when he was presented with the Johnny Mullagh medal as Player of the Match for the Boxing Day Test. The significance wasn't lost on anyone.  Boland has a direct link to Mullagh, having been part of an Indigenous team that toured England in 2018 to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the first tour. After receiving the commemorative medal which is crafted from an original belt buckle from that tour, Boland spoke of what it meant to him.

A great moment for Boland, as England’s shambolic performance left them humiliated !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Dec 2021. 

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