Australia’s pace-bowling captain Pat Cummins ripped through England’s top order taking three wickets to leave the tourists at a precarious 110-4 at the time of writing.
After rain delayed the start of play for 30 minutes, Cummins struck in the second over when Haseeb Hameed was caught behind without scoring. A tentative Zak Crawley, caught at gully for 12, also fell victim to Cummins in the eighth over as England lost its second wicket with only 13 runs on the board.
Dawid Malan added 48 for third wicket with Joe Root, before Cummins was rewarded in the final over before lunch, as left-hander Malan was caught at first slip for 14. It left Australia’s talisman with figure of 3-27 off 9.3 overs after he won the toss and bowled on an uncharacteristically green-tinged MCG pitch.
Root scored 50 and now has 1680 runs in 2021, which is a record for a test captain. Root on Sunday passed the record previously held by South Africa’s Graeme Smith (1656 in 2008). He was dismissed by Mitchell Starc.
The record for most runs overall by a player in a calendar year, held by Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf (1710 in 2006), is in Root’s sights during this match.
England, which trails two-nil in the five-match series and requires three consecutive wins to reclaim the Ashes, has made four changes to its team.
England recalled pace bowler Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach for seamers Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, while Rory Burns and Ollie Pope were dropped for Crawley and Jonny Bairstow.
Australia made two changes. Cummins and debutant Scott Boland, 32, replace seamers Michael Neser, who made his debut in Adelaide, and Jye Richardson, who has been rested because of a minor leg injury.
Boland joins 71-test veteran Jason Gillespie as the only indigenous players to represent Australia’s men’s test cricket team.