Marcus Harris hadn’t been released at 20 and night watchman Nathan Lyon had yet to score.

Leading 2-0 after landslide victories in Brisbane and Adelaide, holders Australia need only a draw in Melbourne to retain the ballot box.

But Cummins’ men will be determined to win the series ahead of the New Year’s Test in Sydney.

Joe Root’s England, meanwhile, needs a miracle.

Only one team managed to overturn a 2-0 deficit to win the Ashes. It was Don Bradman’s Australia, winning the 1936/37 series 3-2 at home.

There was little England could do to fend off Cummins, whose bowling pace accounted for three wickets in the morning.

But several soft dismissals after lunch dashed England’s hopes of recovering a respectable total while underscoring the team’s batting frailty this series.

Although Root marked his ninth half-century in Australia, he was guilty of his 50-year dismissal, caught behind with a loose drive on a Mitchell Starc delivery.

The English captain now shares with former Australian opener Bruce Laird the unenviable record of the most attempts by fifty-year-olds in Australia without making a century (9).

Ben Stokes (25) and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (3) also paid the price for poor shot selection, with the former caught trying to lift Cameron Green over the point and the latter striking Nathan Lyon straight to rookie pacer Scott Boland in the middle of the deep wicket.

“We have to get a little stronger and tougher with our firings,” drummer Jonny Bairstow told reporters.

“It’s just being honest with ourselves.”

England’s revamped opening partnership between Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed lasted 12 balls before Cummins took Hameed behind for a duck.

Crawley, who replaced Rory Burns, had 12 before edging Cummins straight to Green at the ravine.

The Australian skipper picked up his third wicket in the final run before lunch, Dawid Malan (14) closing in on the slides to break a budding 48-run partnership with Root.

Bairstow battled for his 35 before going on the offensive in search of quick runs as his batting partners dwindled.

He was trying to dodge a venomous delivery from Starc who grabbed his bat and looped into the ravine, where Green dove forward to make a terrific catch.

Boland became the second native Australian to play for the men’s test team, opened his account trapping Mark Wood lbw for six.

“I think their hitters were pretty aware of wanting to leave the ball, so we just tried to keep attacking as much as we could,” Boland said.

Spinner Lyon cleaned up the tail to finish with 3-36.

The Australian openers ran to 57 before veteran pacemaker James Anderson broke through, giving Warner the lead over Crawley at the ravine.

The versatile Stokes did his best to soften Harris in a fire spell and drew blood from the opener’s finger after hitting him on the glove.

But Harris survived and clipped Stokes’ last ball just wide of the slips for four, capping a forgettable opening day for England.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom Editing by Robert Birsel, Edmund Klamann and David Goodman) (([email protected]; +61 3 9286 1447;))

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