England has enjoyed arguably its best day of a dismal Ashes tour thanks to a vintage century from their formerly out-of-sorts batting spearhead Alastair Cook.
The tourists finished day two of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG on 2-192 with Cook not out on 103 and skipper Joe Root not out 49. They trail Australia’s first innings score by 135 runs.
Earlier in the day Australia lost 6-87 to be all out for 327 – a good score but less than what the Aussies would have hoped for given David Warner’s day one century and Steve Smith’s batting exploits up until his dismissal for 76.
Cook’s 32nd Test century was his highest Test match score and first century in 10 Test innings. It was also his highest Ashes score in Australia since he hit 189 in Sydney in 2011.
Cook has looked out of sorts all series, but on Wednesday controlled the MCG with his cutting and hitting down the ground. He brought up his century with two 4s in the final over of the day, which sent the Barmy Army into hysterics.
While Cook deserved his century, Smith dropped him at first slip off Mitch Marsh’s bowling while on 66. Cook drove hard at the delivery, only to edge it to the Australian captain, who fumbled while moving sharply to his right side.
The former English skipper was supported brilliantly by England’s current captain Root whose innings would’ve been just as satisfying as Cook’s given the criticism he’s copped about his captaincy in the lead up to Boxing Day.
There was also a return to form for Stuart Broad. His 4-51 was his first four-wicket haul in an innings since November 2016. Before this innings he had only taken five wickets this series.
England has already lost the Ashes, down 3-0 in the five match series, but are fighting to avoid a 5-0 whitewash in this fourth Test.
Australia’s day two collapse was triggered by Smith’s dismissal, who chopped a ball from debutant Tom Curran onto his stumps.
Curran – who yesterday dramatically had Warner out for a no ball on 99 – joined injured teammate Craig Overton as bowlers who this series have dismissed Smith for their first Test wicket.
Broad also dismissed Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird (both for four) and Shaun Marsh – LBW for a gutsy 61 – during Australia’s day two collapse.
Broad finally finds his form
Broad admits he bunkered down in the face of the recent barrage of criticism that came his way, but never doubted he could bounce back.
Broad’s position was in serious doubt after a horror 0-142 showing at the WACA.
“I’ve had one of those weeks where you get your tin hat on, duck down and don’t really see much,” Broad said when asked about the stinging reviews of his recent performances.
“I’ve been very unaware of things being written and said.
“I’ve gone to that place that you have to go to as a sportsman sometimes where you find something within yourself and get support from some people around you and build yourself back up again.
It’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks really, but it makes playing and taking wickets very rewarding.”
At 31 and playing in his 113th Test, questions have been asked about his longevity in the game and he has no problem with that.
“I deserved criticism after the Perth defeat, for sure,” he said. “I’m a better bowler when I’m thinking attackingly.
“It’s a small mental change but actually quite a big thing for me as a cricketer.”
Tim Paine made 24 before playing a James Anderson delivery onto his stumps while Perth Test hero Mitch Marsh only made nine.
Australia bowled well on the lifeless MCG wicket and are by no means out of the game given the deficit England still have to make up.
Both Mark Stoneman (15) and James Vince (17) got starts before they were dismissed. Stoneman went out thanks to another wonderful Nathan Lyon caught-and-bowled, while Vince was more unlucky.
He was trapped LBW off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood. However if he had used the DRS he would’ve been given not out because both “hot spot” and “snicko” showed he’d hit the ball before it hit his pad.