England suffered yet another Boxing Day humiliation as their batsmen were again found wanting in the face of Australian skill and pressure.
Bowled out for 185 in just over two sessions, it was England’s 12th total under 200 in 15 matches this year and made a mockery of the idea that things might be different this week.
And it was the senior trio of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, and Jos Buttler who were caught in the eye of the storm for the way they gifted their wickets to the Aussies with the most dubious of shot selections.
BT Sport pundit Steve Harmison said: “First day of the Test match it’s just been relentless pressure from Australia and England have folded.
“Australia put the ball in the right area and asked England if they could handle it but the answer was no.
“The biggest culprits for me, Stokes – senior player, Root – senior player, Buttler – senior player – gave their wickets away, it is just not good enough.”
It was at 61-3 with the captain and vice-captain at the crease, when this tour took what may prove to be its ultimate nosedive.
Root and Stokes had the chance to set an example. Put into practice the things they had talked about post Adelaide.
Philip Brown/Popperfoto/Popperfoto via Getty Images)
Root had moved past Graeme Smith to register the third most productive run scoring year in Test history and with it brought up his ninth half century in Australia. His third of this tour.
But with his game in good order he played a loose late cut at a wide ball from Mitchell Starc and edged behind. The bowler knew it shouldn’t be this easy.
Root punched his bat, screamed in anger and stomped off the ground in utter frustration at his own mistake. One that he repeatedly makes.
Stokes had played himself in patiently and cautiously before unfurling an attacking blow against Nathan Lyon for six, but he couldn’t build on it.
Darrian Traynor – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)
And when Cam Green banged in a short ball that he bizarrely tried to ramp over the slips, the ball landed safely in the hands of backward point.
It was a shame, because at the other end, Jonny Bairstow was going alright on his return to the side. He was batting very nicely indeed and just needed teammates to stay with him.
So with Lyon coming on for the last over before tea, it defied all cricketing logic for Jos Buttler to charge down the pitch and slog the ball high into the deep and the waiting hands of Scott Boland.
It was a shockingly bad piece of cricket. A total and utter abdication of responsibility by Buttler. The very worst example for a senior player to set.
It is hard to see how England can justify continuing to pick him after an innings like that at such a crucial time.
Earlier the top three had been dealt with by the brilliance of Pat Cummins, who had won the toss and inserted England under cloudy, drizzly skies.
It was a tough ask, but then Test cricket is not designed to be easy, and if England genuinely had designs on getting back into the series this was the sort of challenge they had to meet.
Cummins had Haseeb Hameed caught behind from a beauty that he had to play at, and just left him enough to take a feather edge through to the keeper.
It was Hameed’s fourth duck in eight innings since his return to the side and the 50th of the year for the team as a whole. Grim numbers that don’t lie about his and England’s abilities.
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Zak Crawley managed to get a couple of shots away on his way to 12, but he too fell to Cummins, caught in the gully after being squared up.
So it was left to Dawid Malan and Root to pick up the pieces as per usual, and they made a reasonable fist of it right up to the cusp of lunch, in putting on 48.
But just when they might have justifiably claimed the session as theirs, Cummins popped up for a third scalp to take the edge of Malan’s bat and turn things Australia’s way once more.
The trend lasted until Ollie Robinson was the last man out having added some useful late order runs with Jack Leach to bolster the anaemic total, but it was mere window dressing.
Australia took a 57 run bite out of England’s lead before David Warner fell to James Anderson for 38, but they will be able to tuck in properly on Day two.