A 5-0 Ashes whitewash looks to have slipped from Australia’s grasp on day three of the Boxing Day Test, as Alastair Cook hit the highest ever Test score by a visitor on the MCG.
England finished the day 164 runs ahead of Australia on 9-491 with Cook not out on 244 and tailender James Anderson yet to trouble the scorers.
Having finished 103 not out on day two, Cook picked up where he left off and carried his bat as he dispatched Australia’s bowlers to all areas of the ground.
He was particularly strong pushing the ball back down the ground and pulling short bowling. Cook’s knock was his highest against Australia (his previous highest was 235 in 2010) and the fourth highest of his 151 Test career.
His fifth Test double-century on Thursday was also the highest score by a foreigner in a Test on the MCG – surpassing Sir Viv Richards’ 208 in 1984.
The former English skipper moved from ninth to sixth on the all-time list of Test run scorers on Thursday too. He sits just above West Indian great Brian Lara and 450 runs adrift of Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara.
Cook was supported well by his fellow English batsmen, particularly tailender Stuart Broad, who made a very handy 56.
Broad and Cook recorded a record ninth wicket partnership for England against Australia, while Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes all got starts before succumbing.
Most disappointed of the English would be captain Joe Root, who resumed the day by bringing up his half century, but soon fell for 61 hooking a Pat Cummins bouncer down the throat of Nathan Lyon on the on side.
Broad’s dismissal was shrouded in controversy. He was caught cutting to Usman Khawaja at third man. However the decision was reviewed after the umpire called it out.
Video showed the ball clearly bobbled out of Khawaja’s grasp but it was unclear – because of Khawaja’s body position – if the ball actually hit the ground. Eventually the decision on the field stood.
Illness and dropped catches haunts Australians
Australian captain Steve Smith endured another tough day in the field.
He spent some time off the field due to an illness and like day two was at the centre of two missed catching chances.
First he could only get one hand to a tough chance off a Cook pull shot at square leg. Then, Woakes snicked a Josh Hazlewood delivery in between Smith at first slip and wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
There was also another DRS controversy, with Malan given out LBW off Hazlewood for 14. However replays showed he clearly hit the ball onto his pad and therefore if he reviewed the decision he would have stayed at the crease.
James Vince fell in similar circumstances on day two.
With two days play to go those decisions wont haunt the tourists too much. They’re in a strong position, clearly on top and favourites to win this fourth Test.
Australia will need to quickly dismiss either Anderson or Cook on Friday morning and make a big second innings total to set England a tricky chase.