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England’s top order collapse in face of hypnotic attack on day three in Sydney

England’s top order was blown away again on day three of the fourth Ashes Test, staggering to 36 for four amid a hypnotic sequence of dot balls and wickets from the Australia attack.

The opening session was delayed and shortened by rain, but England are becoming masters of the fast forward collapse and were once again ruthlessly exposed.

Haseeb Hameed was first to go when he was cleaned up through a yawning gate and by the time lunch came the punchdrunk tourists had lost three more batters in a mesmerising spell of 53 runless deliveries.

England’s Joe Root walks off after being dismissed
Joe Root was unable to spark England on day three at the SCG (Jason O’Brien/PA)

Zak Crawley echoed Hameed by having his stumps splattered, captain Joe Root buckled under the pressure by nicking off for a duck and Dawid Malan was caught at leg-slip in the last over.

Scott Boland, who took six for seven in his dream debut in Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test, made yet another remarkable intervention as he went to the interval with figures of two for nought from four overs.

It was yet another dismal episode for a side who are staring at a 4-0 deficit in the series and a probable whitewash, barring a dramatic shift in fortunes at Hobart next week.

The ball was doing plenty, with unpredictable bounce and lots of painful blows, but Test teams can be expected to negotiate tricky patches, on tricky pitches, without giving in to outright surrender.

England’s Haseeb Hameed is bowled by Australia’s Mitchell Starc
The struggles Down Under continued for Hameed in Sydney (Jason O’Brien/PA)

Hameed endured the latest chastening knock of a tour that may well set his career trajectory into reverse, nicking his third ball of the day from Mitchell Starc only for wicketkeeper Alex Carey to dive in front first slip and spill the chance.

Two balls later he punched a boundary through point but it was a momentary respite as Starc went back to business at his next visit, smashing Hameed’s stumps for six as he aimed a ragged drive down the ground.

Crawley, who had been caught off a no-ball on the first evening, was also worked over. He offered a tough chance at short-leg on seven, was thumped on the thigh pad and dropped the bat in pain when Starc crushed his fingers against the handle.

He got in a couple of replies to reach 18 but echoed Hameed’s dismissal when he was cleaned up between bat and pad by the relentless Starc.

Australia’s Scott Boland celebrates the wicket of England’s Zak Crawley
Scott Boland went to lunch with astonishing figures (Jason O’Brien/PA)

The change of bowling offered England no joy whatsoever, with Boland and Cameron Green only cranking up the pressure even further as they failed to concede a single run in 7.5 overs of absolute precision.

Boland got the prize scalp of Root, who threw his hands at one that was too tight to attack and sent a fizzing catch to the alert Steve Smith at second slip.

After holding up the England batting throughout 2021, the skipper’s patience had snapped. Malan had been skittish in eking out three runs in more than an hour at the crease, hitting fresh air with a couple of cut shots and seeing a top edge drop just in front of mid-wicket.

He was struck on the glove immediately before departing to the final ball of the session, fiddling Green down to the waiting catcher at leg slip.

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