Jonny Bairstow stressed “everyone is trying” after England delivered their latest soft batting collapse in an Ashes campaign that is fast unravelling.
Boxing Day at the MCG followed a familiar pattern when Joe Root’s tourists, wearing black armbands in memory of Ray Illingworth, were bowled out for 185 all out thanks in part to a sublime three-wicket morning from Australia’s returning Pat Cummins.
Root top-scored with 50 and Bairstow marked his latest recall to the Test side with battling 35 from 75 balls that tried to overcome a lack of match practice on tour, but both sat among a catalogue of dismissals that made belated for Christmas gifts.
Trailing the series 2-0 and yet to pass 300 with the bat on tour, England require a dramatic turnaround of fortunes during the remainder of the third Test if they are to prevent Australia claiming a series win at the earliest opportunity.
Speaking after stumps on day one, with Australia 61 for one in reply, Bairstow said: “We’re still searching for that big score but both teams were looking to bowl first on that pitch this morning with the help of the conditions and a tinge of green.
“I don’t think that you can complain when it’s obviously individuals going out and playing in the way in which they foresee is best. That’s exactly what it’s about.
“Naturally the execution … wasn’t there today. But the amount of times that we’ve seen those shots being executed and going to the boundary is high.
“It’s one of those days that … we will look back on and probably reassess next time and potentially take different options.”
Arguably the most galling dismissal came when, on the stroke of tea with England already 128 for five, the newly-arrived Jos Buttler needlessly tried to take on Nathan Lyon only to hole out for three. From a senior player, it was quite staggering.
“That’s an individual decision,” said Bairstow, when asked about his team-mate’s choice. “If that’s the game plan to take the off-spinner down and put the pressure back on, to push the field back, then that’s the game plan that was taken.
“I can tell you now, everyone is trying; different methods, individual training techniques. [But] when you’ve got guys bowling 138-144kph it makes you make decisions quicker. That’s part and parcel of the game.
“We’ve got to get a bit stronger and tougher with our dismissals. We know that and we’ve spoken about that. That is just being honest with ourselves.”
As well as tightening their grip on the urn, Australia’s latest show of dominance had additional significance when Scott Boland was handed his Baggy Green cap and became just the second Indigenous man after Jason Gillespie to play for their Test side.
The 32-year-old Victorian also got off the mark in the wickets column to the delight of his home crowd, Mark Wood trapped lbw for six and failing with a review despite uncertainty over whether the ball had struck pad or bat first.
“I’m pretty proud,” said Boland, who also claimed two catches. “Obviously my family’s very proud as well. It means a lot to join a pretty small club and hopefully it’s just the start of something big for the Indigenous community in cricket.
“I just hope I can be a role model for young Indigenous kids to want to play cricket. I think the Indigenous community in [Australian Rules Football] and rugby are so big and hopefully one day Aboriginals in cricket can be just as big.”