Steve Smith hangs his head after being dismissed. Photo: Getty Images
England have finally made Australia bleed.
It was just a trickle, from the temple of Australian opener Chris Rogers, but it was enough to symbolise a change of fortunes as the new owners of the Ashes performed their best imitation of England on an attritional afternoon at the MCG.
England vs Australia: Day 2 of the Ashes
Melbourne hosts another bumper day of record crowd numbers at the MCG for Day 2 of the fourth Ashes Test. Photo: Pat Scala
England's batsmen have never been far from harm when Mitchell Johnson has had the ball in his hand, and he wrapped up England's first innings for 255 with one of his most frightening spells on the second morning of the Boxing Day Test.
But then, having surrendered the urn in Perth after 14 days of cricket, the tourists finally did to the Australians what the Australians have done to them for much of the series, and waited for the mistakes to come.
The home side struggled to 9-164 at stumps on day two, trailing by 91 runs. And the Australian quicks will have to repeat their heroic efforts from the first three Tests in 38-degree heat on Saturday.
Chris Rogers cuts one at the MCG. Photo: Pat Scala
Having drawn blood from Rogers, the English dried up the Australians' runs on a slow drop-in pitch, and seized control of a Test for the first time in the series. "England are on top. We've had our worst day of the series," Rogers said. "But that happens. We're up against it but there's a lot of game to go and we have to fight well for the rest of it."
Rogers was struck as he tried to duck under a Stuart Broad bouncer on 16. The impact jammed his helmet into the side of his head, leaving him stunned as the team doctor patched him up with sticking plaster. "The helmet did its job this time," Rogers said later. "It was a bit of a scare but it's not too bad. He was bowling quite quick there. It can happen. He's a tall guy so if you slightly misjudge it you've only got fractions of a second. He bowled it in the right area and I misjudged it."
Rogers wore four different helmets during his innings of 61 in 171 balls. With a series average of 31 and no centuries, Rogers has spoken of the pressure on his Test spot and this was a situation made for his barnacle-like skills in front of a massive home-state crowd.
But he and several other batsmen fell to a plan from the Australian playbook: stop the runs and the wickets will come. Having hung on for more than two hours, Rogers lost patience and was caught trying to loft Tim Bresnan down the ground.
"England bowled very well and we got bogged down," Rogers said. "We probably looked for a release. They forced us into mistakes. A Boxing Day Test hundred, it wouldn't get much better than that so it's frustrating. . . . It was probably my turn today and that is probably what I'm most disappointed with."
Broad's bouncer to wound Rogers was not the only blow landed by England. Michael Clarke shouldered arms to Jimmy Anderson and watched the ball seam back into his stumps for 10. Shane Watson, perhaps hampered by his sore groin, did not move his feet and was caught behind playing a loose drive to Ben Stokes. And Broad silenced the taunts from the grandstands by teasing Steve Smith into a swish outside off, the catch taken at bullet-like speed by Ian Bell in the slips.
Broad, bowling on a sore foot, was the best of the England quicks with 3-30 from 16.3 overs, while Anderson regained his spark. But no spell was as hostile as Johnson's with the second new ball, which produced 5-18 in nine overs, broken by a night's sleep.
Anderson said Broad was taking painkillers for his foot, which was badly bruised by Johnson at the WACA Ground.
"He's being a brave little soldier . . . Thankfully, he's fit enough to play," said Anderson, adding he has no intention of following Graeme Swann into retirement yet. "I'd like to carry on playing a while. Just because Graeme's gone . . . I have got other friends in the team. It's been a disappointing tour but I know we've got a lot more to show people and I want to be a part of that.
"[Swann] was a big character in the dressing room but there are other big characters in there. As harsh as it sounds, he's a good friend, but we've got to move on."