England seized control of the Ashes on Sunday by skittling Australia for 98, a record low for the hosts in Melbourne, and building a lead of 59 runs without loss at the close of the first day’s play in the fourth test.
England’s seamers scythed through Australia’s top order before lunch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then rattled through their last six wickets for the loss of only 40 runs before tea to stun the crowd of more than 84,000.
England openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook rubbed salt in the hosts’ wounds by surviving more than three hours to stumps, profiting from sunny afternoon conditions that tamed a pitch that earlier proved a handful for Australia’s batsmen.
Strauss was on 64 and Cook 80 at stumps, raising England’s hopes of taking the Ashes home for the first time in 24 years.
“At no point did we get carried away, even when they were six down, seven down,” paceman James Anderson, who took 4-44 from 16 overs, told reporters.
“We just kept going and did what we were trying to do, create pressure.”
Anderson said early conditions had helped England’s cause. “There was definitely some movement. The grass that was on the pitch did help and the overcast conditions helped it swing as well,” he added.
The five-test series is tied at 1-1 and holders England need only to win in Melbourne to be the first team to retain the Ashes on Australian soil since Mike Gatting’s side in 1986/87.
Australia’s paltry total eclipsed their previous lowest of 104 against their opponents at the MCG in the inaugural match of England’s first test tour of Australia in 1876-77. The hosts won that test by 45 runs.
Paceman Chris Tremlett finished with 4-26 in another strong display after coming back into the side at Perth, while Tim Bresnan, who replaced Steve Finn in the side, took 2-25.