JOE ROOT demanded a response from his batsmen and he got one – and it was terrible.
England crumbled to just 185 all out on day one of the Third Test with a performance that was more abject and feeble than anything on this tour.
It was the 12th time this year England have been bowled out for fewer than 200 in Test cricket.
Wickets were tossed away in an embarrassing catalogue of self-destruction.
And England’s four most senior batsmen – Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow – were to blame the most.
They gifted their wickets to the Aussies with all the seasonal generosity of cricketing Father Christmases.
They might as well have had wrapping paper and a bow around their bats.
By the close, Australia had reached 61-1 with David Warner dismissed by Jimmy Anderson ten minutes before stumps.
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England need to win this match to have any chance of regaining the Ashes.
After a single day, it is impossible to see anything other than an Australian victory.
Captain Root and head coach Chris Silverwood conducted an angry post-mortem into the Second Test defeat in Adelaide that gave Australia a 2-0 series lead.
It included a video nasty of the worst dismissals.
But Root’s hope of an improvement turned to dust after Aussie skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and bowled.
Root top-scored with 50 – that’s eight fifties in his last eight Tests in Australia and still no century – but must not escape criticism because he committed the sin of tossing away his wicket when well set.
Root will be at a loss to explain another dismal team performance and the feeling grows that he might resign the captaincy at the end of this tour.
To protect his sanity, if nothing else.
Haseeb Hameed, who should have been dropped here rather than Rory Burns, registered the 14th duck by an England opening batsman in 2021 when he edged behind in Cummins' first over.
As a team, England have piled up 50 ducks – a half-century of the wrong sort.
Zak Crawley scored 12, which actually improved his Test average for the year – that stood at 11 before this match.
Crawley was squared up by Cummins and caught in the gully.
Dawid Malan and Root, the only two England batsmen to emerge with credit so far, threatened a revival with a third-wicket stand of 48 until Malan edged behind in the final over before lunch.
Root reached fifty with few alarms but then nicked a ball he should have left alone.
It was a copy and paste moment for Root – a decent half-century followed by an edge, an angry punch of the bat and a self-flagellating return to the dressing-room.
Stokes was next. He made a start but, on 25, tried to uppercut a ball from all-rounder Cameron Green, got into a tangle, and succeeded only in steering a catch to backward point.
Buttler’s demise was grim. In the final over before tea, he tried to hoist off-spinner Nathan Lyon high and far but instead deposited a catch into the hands of deep mid-wicket.
There was no other fielder within 50 yards.
Mark Wood, batting in the elevated position of No.8 because England’s tail is so long, might have been unlucky to be given out lbw because the ball probably hit his bat before the pad.
But there was not the conclusive proof needed to overturn Wood’s review.
Bairstow could not decide in a split second whether to uppercut or avoid a short ball from Mitchell Starc and managed only to glove a catch to gully.
Jack Leach lofted Lyon for six over long-on but then edged to slip.
England’s miserable innings ended when Ollie Robinson lobbed a catch into the deep.
When Australia batted, England’s bowling lacked inspiration and their fielding lacked energy.
This has already become an horrendous tour.
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