An Australian Ashes whitewash could come as soon as Sunday after another doomed batting performance by England left the home side primed for a 5-0 series win.
Australia have a 311-run lead with six wickets remaining after a chanceless 73 from Chris Rogers heading into the third day’s play. Rogers will resume with George Bailey (20) – with the Tasmanian needing a big score to prolong his five-Test career.
England were dismissed for 155 – 171 behind Australia’s first innings as their wobbly top order continued its poor run of form, capitulating to be 5-23 as the Australian pace bowlers ripped through them. A debutant and a rookie held up Australia’s onslaught, with Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes becoming the first tourists to crack double figures on a challenging pitch.
Australia were again led by their trio of pacemen with Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris claiming three scalps each in front 43,579 people at the SCG. The day started terribly for England when captain Alastair Cook lasted just two balls to not add to his overnight score of seven when he left a straight ball from Harris to be out leg before. Only a regulation dropped catch from Shane Watson at first slip granted No.4 Ian Bell a stay of execution the very next ball, as England faltered at 2-7.
Wickets fell at regular intervals with Johnson wasting little time to get in on the morning action. He ended nightwatchman James Anderson’s stay three overs later, caught by skipper Michael Clarke at second slip. The protective innings could have had serious repercussions for Anderson who was left needing attention when he was whacked on the fingers by Johnson moments earlier.
By the time Kevin Pietersen was dismissed for three, Bell had yet to score, when this time Watson made light work of another simple catch to have England at 4-17 with Harris claiming his second scalp. Bell tried to occupy time at the crease, but his poor series continued, as he stumbled his way to two off 32 balls before departing when poor footwork saw him edge the ball to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for Siddle to have his first wicket of the innings.
At one stage England looked destined to record the lowest Test score at the SCG with Australia’s 42 against England in 1887-88 the worst ever – three runs less than England’s a year earlier.
Stokes hit the first boundary of the day after nearly 90 minutes of play but the all-rounder’s stay at the crease could have ended at seven when an edge from Siddle was ruled to have fallen just short of Haddin, who was diving forward, by television umpire Tony Hill.
England resumed the second session at 5-61 with Ballance (17 not out) and Stokes (23 not out) building a solid sixth wicket partnership. However, any thought of late innings heroics were skittled as Ballance added just one run to his lunch tally before falling to a Nathan Lyon ball which spun and bounced to have him caught behind by Haddin.
After a six-wicket first innings haul, Stokes showed his resolve with the bat as he continued to be the one shining light in the England side.
A two-wicket over from Siddle would bring about his undoing but not before he top-scored with 47. Siddle’s burst ended Bairstow’s (18) stay at the crease before Stokes was halted three short of a deserved half century when he let a ball go only to be clean bowled.
Stuart Broad managed a quick-fire 30 not out as he watched Johnson bowl Boyd Rankin (13) to end England’s innings.
Australia, although scoring much more freely, lost wickets regularly as Anderson looked untroubled by the blow to his hand from Johnson when batting, to dismiss David Warner (16) and Shane Watson (nine).
Clarke (six) was caught prodding at a wide ball from Broad before Steve Smith (seven) was out. England’s cause wasn’t helped when they offered a rare seven runs to Rogers following a fielding mishap.