Tom Curran will never again experience the extreme highs and lows of a dramatic passage of play on the first day of the fourth Test that saw what he thought was a notable first Test wicket snatched away from him.
Curran was ecstatic when England’s plan to frustrate David Warner ended with him lobbing one of those short-arm jabs that have proved his downfall before to mid-on one run short of a Boxing Day MCG century.
Yet the debutant’s joy quickly turned to despair when he was found to have overstepped and Warner was allowed to reach three figures off the next ball and set off on an extravagant celebration that heaped salt onto England’s wounds.
Steve Smith reached another half-century for Australia as England once again struggled to cope with the hosts’ captain
Tom Curran shows his frustration after he experienced the extreme highs and lows of the Ashes during his Test debut
David Warner celebrates his century for Australia as the hosts took control on day one of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG
It was the most eye-catching moment of a see-saw opening to England’s attempts to reclaim some of the pride that was lost along with the Ashes when they crashed to a third thumping defeat in three Tests in Perth.
But at least it did not prove a costly one as Warner added just four more runs before Jimmy Anderson claimed him as his 100th Ashes victim when England hit back in another Test that had already seemed to be slipping away.
England had bowled with great discipline to keep Warner, who had cruised to an unbeaten 83 out of 102 by lunch, in the 90s for 40 minutes, Joe Root frustrating the explosive opener with seven fielders on the off-side.
And their reward was their second wicket, to follow that of a tortuous 26 from Cameron Bancroft ended by Chris Woakes, in a middle session where they clawed their back into contention by conceding just 43 runs in 25 overs.
Chris Woakes is overjoyed after his bowl ended Cameron Bancroft’s unconvincing 26 to claim the first wicket of the day
England’s Barmy Army were out in full force as 87,000 fans turned out at the MCG to watch day one of the fourth Ashes Test
There was controversy too, as ever with Warner, when he launched a tirade of abuse at Jonny Bairstow after England took exception to the Australian’s slice of fortune and the way he milked the moment when he reached three figures.
It was in Brisbane where Warner and Steve Smith, seemingly inspired by Peter Handscomb, made comments to Bairstow that were alleged to have overstepped the mark of what is acceptable in the heat of a Test battle.
England’s wicketkeeper said afterwards in his Sportsmail column that if the nature of the abuse was repeated he would go public with it so Warner needed to be very careful when he shouted and screamed at Bairstow.
Anderson, who drew level with Courtney Walsh on 519 Test wickets when he got rid of Warner, certainly felt the need to bring yesterday’s comments to umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s attention before at least three England players exchanged more words with Warner during a subsequent drinks break.
Warner was given the perfect environment to lay the foundations for his first big score of the series when he faced Curran
England players look towards the video scoreboard to await the decision after Warner was caught by Stuart Broad…
…but television replays showed Tom Curran had stepped over the line and Warner stayed in the crease for four more runs
But both Bairstow and England were insistent on Monday night that Warner was simply foul-mouthed rather than offensive in the latest outburst that proves him to be anything but the reformed character Australia insist him to be.
A point here, too, about Curran’s no ball, the third to cost England a Test wicket in the last four years, only being picked up by replays rather than a standing umpire in Dharmasena who should have been able to spot it.
Umpires these days simply do not check for front foot no balls and it is an abdication of their responsibilities to hand over the duty to the TV official.
Curran can only blame himself for overstepping but the sooner the ICC cricket committee’s recommendation that all no balls are instantly called by the TV umpire using ‘goal-line’ technology is brought in the better.
Warner jumps for joy as he celebrates manically in front of the MCG crowd after reaching a century to put Australia in charge
Jonny Bairstow caught Warner shortly after for 103 after the batsman feathered one through to England’s wicketkeeper
Warner (left) and England debutant Curran (right) exchanged words after the Australian batsman reached his century
When Stuart Broad, bristling to prove those like Michael Vaughan wrong in calling for him to be dropped, took his first wicket in almost 70 overs to claim Usman Khawaja England were again in with a chance to seize control.
And if Broad had managed to convince umpire S Ravi to give him Shaun Marsh’s wicket off his very next ball – England’s review of the not out decision showed it to be umpire’s call- then they really might have been in business.
Yet they again ran into the immovable object that is Smith who proved impossible to budge even though he was struggling with a right hand injured when a drive by Bancroft hit him in the MCG nets on Christmas Eve.
The Australia captain averages 137 in Melbourne and not even the problem with his strong bottom hand stopped him reaching 65 by the close alongside Marsh with Australia battling through to 244 for three.
Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia’s Usman Khawaja after Jonny Bairstow’s simple catch
Smith walks out to bat to replace Warner as the Australian flag flies over him at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Smith toasts another half century for the Aussies as he enjoyed another extended stay in the crease on day one in Melbourne
In truth there was not a lot more England could do on the flattest wicket of the series with a largely one-paced attack in front of a crowd that fell just short of the expected 90,000 after Root had finally lost his first toss of the series at the ground where batting first is most important.
Curran, who replaced the injured Craig Overton, was impressive even though he is still waiting for that first wicket while Broad and Anderson did everything to get some assistance either off the unhelpful surface or through the air.
Only Moeen Ali was a disappointment and it said everything about his series that Root preferred the occasional leg-spin of Dawid Malan to his No1 spinner throughout the final session. Moeen, who went for 35 runs in his six overs after passing a late fitness test on a hand injury, just looks devoid of all confidence and is playing for his place in the rest of this Test.
Really, England could have blooded a second debutant here in Mason Crane but were worried about the length of their tail. Now the 20-year-old leg-spinner will almost certainly play in Sydney unless Moeen goes big with the bat.