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Ashes cricket 2021: Boxing Day Test rocked by Covid-19 crisis, live scores, updates

The Ashes have once again been rocked by a major Covid-19 drama as uncertainty reigned ahead of day two of the Boxing Day Test.

Welcome to our live coverage of day two of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

England’s horror tour went from bad to worse on Sunday as its batters capitulated once again after Australia won the toss and elected to bowl on a green wicket under cloudy skies.

Play is scheduled to begin at 11am AEDT.

Catch every moment of The Ashes live and ad-break free during play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.

More Covid chaos hits the Ashes

Covid has caused havoc once again with the cricket.

England released a statement at around 9.30am AEDT — approximately one hour before the first ball of the day was due to be bowled — saying the team was remaining in its hotel following a positive test result among the family group.

The players underwent rapid tests and were staying put while they waited for the results.

“The England team and management are currently at the team hotel awaiting results of RFT Covid tests following a positive test in the team’s family group,” the statement said.

At 9.45am, it was confirmed England had been given the all-clear to leave the hotel and make its way to the MCG — easing concerns the Test could be dramatically affected.

As a result of England’s late arrival, the start of play was pushed back 30 minutes to 11am AEDT.

However, 20 minutes before play was scheduled to get underway at the MCG, Cricket Australia confirmed that four members of the England camp had tested positive to Covid-19 – two support staff and two family members.

The affected quartet are currently isolating.

“The entire playing group and all other support staff have undertaken Rapid Antigen Tests this morning and all have tested negative. The England Cricket team will also have PCR tests today, and both teams will take extra precautions throughout play. Both playing squads remain unchanged,” the CA statement read.

“There is currently no further impact on fans or other parts of the venue. Cricket Australia and the MCC will continue to monitor the situation and follow the endorsed Victorian Government COVID-Safe Event Plan.”

Meanwhile, Channel 7 confirmed a member of its broadcast team also tested positive for Covid-19. The network said in a statement the staff member was asymptomatic and has been in isolation since returning a positive result.

The spanner in the works meant Seven had to reshuffle its commentary line-up, resulting in a completely different roster than the callers used on Boxing Day.

Seven commentator Alison Mitchell tweeted: “Our @7Cricket Ashes broadcast will sound a little different this morning as most of us wait results of regulatory PCR tests, but no less good, in very capable hands! Such is the world we’re in … Stay safe all.”

The drama comes after Covid caused havoc at the second Test in Adelaide. Australian captain Pat Cummins was ruled out and forced to isolate because he was deemed a close contact of a positive case and members of the media also tested positive in the South Australian capital.

Graph reveals England is completely cooked

England has been a one-man show in 2021. Captain Joe Root has been the only player to stand up with the bat.

He’s plundered 1680 Test runs this year — the third-most by any player in a calendar year in history and the most ever by an Englishman.

Next best on the list for 2021 is Rory Burns — who was dropped for the Boxing Day Test — with 530 runs. But the real marker of just how putrid England has been this year arrives in spot three.

As cricket writer Jarrod Kimber pointed out on his social media channels and in his Substack column, extras have been England’s third-highest run-getter in Tests over the past 12 months.

Kimber calculated England has benefited from 407 sundries in that time, meaning things like no-balls, wides, leg byes and byes have contributed more to England’s batting totals than any other player besides Root and Burns.

That’s unheard of, and shows just how awful England’s batters have been.

England’s batters still in a world of pain

England crashed to 185 all out on day one of the third Ashes Test on Sunday, leaving its Ashes dreams on the brink of ruin in the face of a relentless Australian attack.

After heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the visitors must win in Melbourne to keep the five-Test series alive, with Australia only needing a draw to retain the urn as holders.

But those hopes took a near-fatal blow as Australia ripped through England’s flimsy batting, with only captain Joe Root (50) and Jonny Bairstow (35) showing resistance.

Australian skipper Pat Cummins, back after missing the second Adelaide Test because he was in Covid isolation, and spinner Nathan Lyon both took 3-36.

Australia then added to England’s pain by negotiating 16 overs to be 1-61 at stumps, trailing by only 124 with Marcus Harris not-out on 20 despite taking a nasty blow to the finger, and nightwatchman Lyon yet to score.

But on another bad day for England it did bag the big wicket of David Warner, who raced to 38 off 42 balls before sending a thick edge off Jimmy Anderson to Zak Crawley at gully.

“As a bowling group we know we are not going to give up any soft overs. You need to take 20 wickets to win the game and that’s our motive,” said Australia’s Scott Boland, who made his debut and took the wicket of Mark Wood.

“It’s a great attack to be a part of.”

After batting collapses and poor bowling in the first two Tests, Root read his players the riot act — seemingly to little effect. They have failed to score more than 297 in five innings so far.

“Obviously the toss didn’t go our way, we’d also have loved to bowl in that first session,” said Bairstow. “Yes, we’re still looking for that big score. We’ve got to get stronger and tougher with our dismissals, we know that.

“But we’ve seen that the pitch offered plenty (for the bowlers) today and hopefully we turn up in the morning and put pressure on to get some early inroads.”

Openers Haseeb Hameed (0) and Crawley (12) fell cheaply to Cummins after he won the toss and put England in to bat, with their hopes resting once more on Root in front of 57,100 fans at the MCG — less than expected due to Covid concerns.

He brought up his 53rd Test half-century in his 112th match, but once more failed to convert it into a maiden ton in Australia after a poor shot on 50 to Mitchell Starc.

The visitors had wielded the axe after their 275-run defeat in Adelaide with Crawley in for Rory Burns and Bairstow replacing Ollie Pope at six.

Wood was recalled after being rested in Adelaide, as was off-spinner Jack Leach. Wearing black armbands to mourn former England captain Ray Illingworth, who died aged 89, Crawley confidently drove Cummins for three in his opening over.

But Cummins struck three balls later with Hameed’s torrid tour continuing, out after nicking to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Crawley earned his first Test chance since March, but he failed to grab it, finding an outside edge to a rising Cummins ball that Cameron Green superbly caught at gully.

His dismissal for 12 left England at 2-13 with Dawid Malan and Root, the only two English batters to pass 50 this series, again on the back foot.

A cautious Malan took 18 balls to get off the mark, but disaster struck near lunch when he got an edge off Cummins on 14 that carried to Warner at slip.

Root played positively to move past South Africa’s Graeme Smith (1656 in 2008) and into third place for the most runs scored in a calendar year. But just as he looked set he offered a lazy stroke that took a nick and was taken by Carey, with the England captain livid.

Star all-rounder Ben Stokes departed for 25 to Green, then Jos Buttler lasted only 11 balls. He hit Lyon to Boland, the first Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia since Jason Gillespie.

Boland then snared Wood before Bairstow gloved Starc to Green and Australia mopped up the tail.

AFP

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