Melbourne: James Anderson hailed England’s stunning dismissal of Australia and their batsmen’s unbeaten march to stumps on the opening day of the fourth Test in Melbourne on Sunday, a day in which all of the chips fell in the tourists’ favour.
Australia’s paltry first-innings total of 98 eclipsed their previous lowest of 104 against their opponents at the MCG in the inaugural match of England’s first Test tour of Australia in 1876-77.
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook then guided England to 157 without loss at stumps, a lead of 59 runs, as Australia’s seamers toiled fruitlessly in the afternoon as the pitch flattened.
The five-Test series is level at 1-1 but a win in Melbourne will see England take the Ashes home for the first time in 24 years.
It was difficult for paceman Anderson to remember a better day for England against their bitter rivals.
“Probably not off the top of my head,” Anderson told reporters. “To be honest, in an Ashes series to bowl Australia out for less than 100 and then be 150 for none at the end of play is just unheard of.
Anderson finished with figures of 4-44, including the vital wicket of Michael Hussey just before lunch, as he and fellow seamers Chris Tremlett (4-26) and Tim Bresnan (2-25) took advantage of a grassy, moist pitch offering venomous swing in early overcast conditions.
Hussey, who had been Australia’s middle order rescuer after a number of top order collapses, was caught behind for eight by Matt Prior, one of six catches taken by the wicketkeeper.
“Throughout the series I thought we’ve bowled really well, we’ve beaten the bat quite a lot, had lbws turned around and created all these chances and I think today was the day when all those bits of luck came together and we got the nicks that we missed in the past,” he added.
Anderson paid tribute to his fellow pacemen for helping England rebound from a 267-run trouncing at Perth
“I think it’s a credit to the guys, especially Tim Bresnan, who sat out the first three games, to come out and bowl as well as he did was a great effort,” he said.
“I thought (Tremlett) played fantastic at Perth and here. The way he bowls is always going to be dangerous and always going to take wickets and he’s just shown what he can do.”
With the pitch set to wear progressively throughout the week, spinner Graeme Swann, who bowled only two overs as his fast-bowling team-mates hogged the limelight, should play a bigger part as England press for victory.
“We’re not sure at the minute how the wicket is going to deteriorate so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Anderson said. “I thought the two overs (Swann) bowled today were fantastic,” he joked.