It's been a fiercely dramatic opening day to the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The English seamers gave the Aussies a taste of their own medicine from the previous Test, bowling out a hapless host side for just 98 runs in 42.5 overs. English pacemen James Anderson and Chris Tremlett performed a bulk of the destruction, getting four wickets a piece in the innings.
There was a twist of fortune in the fist over of the day when Paul Collingwood dropped Aussie opener Shane Watson at third slip off Anderson. Eager to shake off his poor form, the other opener Philip Hughes, smashed Tremlett for two fours in the next over, one shot going past point and the other, through the covers.
Watson got a second life in the third over when he was put down by Kevin Pieterson, again of Anderson's bowling. But Tremlett ensured that there would be no more reprieves for the batsman when he had Watson caught by the same fielder at gully for 5. Australia were 15/1 and England has pushed the destruction button.
There was more drama in the 11th over when the unpire turned down England's appeal for a caught behind from Hughes. The visitors called for a decision review and replays clearly showed that the ball had only brushed Hughes' shirt on the way to the keeper. So the batsman survived and England returnd to the job at hand.
Desperate to pull himself out of a slump in his batting, captain Ricky Ponting, smacked Anderson for two fours in the 13th over, courtesy two confident pull shots. But at the other end, Hughes' stand came to an end when English speedster Tim Bresnan had him snapped up by Pietersen for 16, pegging Australia back to 37/2.
In the next over, Ponting had to follow Hughes back to the shed for 10 when Tremlett had him caught by Graeme Smith in the slips. Australia were in further bother at 37/3 in 14.2 overs. The the in-form Michael Hussey and the capable Michael Clarke tried to steady the ship and strike up a decent partnership, hitting a few fours between them. But Anderson made sure there wasn't going to be a recovery when he had Hussey caught behind for 8. The hosts were in dire straights at 58/4 in 25.2 overs, when lunch was called.
The leg-spinning allrounder Steven Smith couldn't hold out for too long after the break and edged an Anderson special straight to the keeper. He was on his way for 6 as the scoreboard read a pititful 66/5. Just four overs later, Australia's woes were compounded when Clarke got caught behind off Anderson for 20. The hosts were teetering on the brink at 77/6 in 33.4 overs. Haddin's reply to the dire situation was short-lived, as he departed in the next over to the bowling of Bresnan, for 5. Australia's tail was wide open now at 77/7 in 34.5 overs.
Mitchell Johnson couldn't manage to pull off any heroics with the bat and was on his way for a duck when Anderson had him snapped uo by the keeper, Matt Prior. At 78/8, the hosts had reached the bottom of their barrel. But new batsmen Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris tried to launch a counter-attack.
They struck a couple of boundaries between them, before Tremlett ended their brief resistance. The speedster had Siddle caught behind for 11. Australia had slumped to 92/9. Though Harris hit one more boundary, last batsman Ben Hilfenhaus, couldn't keep his end up and was caught behind off Tremlett for a duck as the hosts folded for 98 in their first innings. Anderson finished with figures of 4/44, Chris Tremlett 4/26 and Bresnan 2/25 with wicketkeeper Matt Prior taking a total of 6 catches.
Now England go out to bat and will be hoping not to repeat thee errors of their previous encounter at Perth where they were skittled out for low scores. With the batsman generally in good form, they should be able to surpass Australia's total with ease and post an intimidating score.