Fans cheer for Scott Boland as he takes a catch to dismiss Ollie Robison in the third Ashes Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Reuters
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-19 isolation, and spin king Nathan Lyon both took 3-36.
Australia then added to England's pain by negotiating 16 overs to be 61 for one at stumps, trailing by only 124 with Marcus Harris not-out 20 despite taking a nasty blow to the finger, and nightwatchman Lyon yet to score.
But on another bad day for England they 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. After batting collapses and poor bowling in the first two Tests, Root read his players the riot act — seemingly to little affect. They have failed to score more than 297 in five innings so far.
Joe Root bats against Australia during their Ashes third Test match in Melbourne. AP
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-19 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 wielded the axe after their 275-run defeat in Adelaide with Crawley in for Rory Burns and Bairstow replacing Ollie Pope at number six.
An intruder to the field of play, with the words "no vax mandate" written on his body in reference to COVID-19 vaccines, is tackled by security personnel. Reuters
Speedster Mark Wood was recalled after being rested in Adelaide, as was off-spinner Jack Leach, with Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad overlooked.
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 due to Burns' poor form, 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 13 for two with Dawid Malan and Root, the only two English batsmen to pass 50 this series, again on the back foot.
A cautious Malan took 18 balls to get off the mark, but disaster struck just before lunch when he got an edge off Cummins on 14 that carried to Warner at slip.
Joe Root (L) shakes hands with his counterpart Pat Cummins during the coin toss before their Test match in Melbourne. AP
Root played positively to move past South Africa's Graeme Smith (1,656 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 as he trudged off.
Fans fill a section of the stands as Australia takes on England in the third Ashes test at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Reuters
After star all-rounder Ben Stokes departed for 25, succumbing to pressure from Green and playing a cut shot straight to Lyon at point, Jos Buttler lasted only 11 balls. He hit Lyon to debutant Scott Boland, the first Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia since Jason Gillespie.
Boland then took the wicket of Wood, lbw for six, before Bairstow gloved Starc to Green and Australia mopped up the tail.
After restricting England's second innings to 297, the Australians needed just 20 runs to clinch the match. They did it in 5.1 overs, for the loss of only makeshift opener Alex Carey (9), with Marcus Harris (9 not out) hitting a boundary to finish off.
It is an even harder task at the Adelaide Oval, where Australia's 315 for six to defeat England in 1902 remains the best fourth-innings run chase. England's problems stem from being bowled out, after a batting collapse, for 236 on Saturday in reply to Australia's 473 for nine declared.
Set 468 runs to win, England was bowled out for 192 with 21 overs remaining on the final day of play in the day-night test at Adelaide Oval.
The Pakistan-born Khawaja, playing his first Test since the 2019 Ashes series in England in place of COVID-isolated Travis Head, was at his unflappable best in notching an unbeaten hundred to put Australia in charge at 321 for six at tea.
The right-handed batsman had been playing in a four-day warm-up match against Leicestershire but did not bat in their second innings on Saturday's third day. He scored 25 in the first innings on Thursday.
In another dominant performance, UAE defeated hosts Malaysia by five wickets in the final of the ACC Women’s T20 Championship on Saturday.
Petra Kvitova warmed up for Wimbledon by winning the Eastbourne singles title for the first time with a 6-3, 6-2 rout of Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday.