Ashes: Australia v England, fourth Test, day one, as it happened

Kevin Pietersen makes an unbeaten 67 but England struggle on day one of the fourth Test, closing on 226-6.

25 December 2013 Last updated at 22:59

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As it happened

  1. 0735: 

    And that is where we shall leave it.

    Another present for Clarke gave the Grinchy Australians the chance to ruin England's Christmas, but Pietersen, like Rudolph, still has the chance to save the day.

    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

  2. 0731: 
    CATCH UP ACROSS THE BBC

    But before then, there is so much for you to pore over on this Boxing Day morning. Read the report from chief sports writer Tom Fordyce, then keep an eye out for the thoughts of cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.

    Also, on the BBC Cricket page, there will be so much to listen to. There's TMS highlights, the TMS podcast, the Pint-Sized Ashes podcast and, from 1100 GMT, a full replay of the day's play.

  3. 0728: 

    And it is to the second day where we shall look, a morning session in which England must look to repel a ball that is only nine overs old. With four wickets in hand - one the crucial Pietersen - the tourists must look for 300 and beyond. Australia, though, will want to wrap up the tail and then bat England out of the game.

  4.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "I respect what Pietersen has done today it put to rest all the nonsense he said about 'this is the way I play'. He can put his head down as good as anybody because he is that good a player. I love his batting, at times I despair, but don't let anybody criticise him today, he didn't do any daft things and stayed there."

  5. 0726: 

    But it did not come, Kevin Pietersen, the man so heavily criticised in this series, standing tall. He had luck in his vigil, one catch carried over the rope and another dropped, but his 167-ball stay showed patience that some didn't think he had. He goes past Geoffrey Boycott to become England's fourth highest runscorer in Tests and carries England's hopes in to the second day.

  6.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Root's was one of the scratchiest innings I've seen from him, Stokes wasn't in line enough, Jonny Bairstow's footwork again left a gate between bat and pad my car could have driven through, the three youngsters had the worst of the day. Australia always felt they had control of the game even when they weren't getting wickets we were going slowly and not too far."

  7. 0724: 

    And, with Mitchell Johnson revved up, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were found wanting. Stokes nicked a good one, Bairstow was cleaned up through the gate. From slow slumber in the afternoon, a world record crowd of 91,092 was alive, creating a deafening din in the hunt for more English blood.

  8. 0722: 

    A stand of 67 was ground out in 30 painstaking overs, but, eventually, Australia had their reward for patient, probing and persistence. Bell tickling the brilliant Harris, the door ajar with the new ball due.

  9. 0720: 

    The hosts lost Shane Watson to a groin injury, but the vice grip showed no sign of loosening. Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell took up the challenge, looking to be the immovable object against Australia's irresistible force. For long periods, they succeeded, though runs were virtually non-existent.

  10.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Michael Clarke thought there might be a little in the pitch and England were a little bit in disarray, that they were just as liable to get themselves out. The pitch didn't really have any terrors, it was on the slow side which was not easy for the batsmen to play shots.

    "I'm sure England have taken some of the criticism to heart that 50% of their dismissals have been of their own making, and in some ways they have gone too much the other way, too defensive, too careful, afraid to play a shot against a team playing much better cricket than them."

  11. 0717: 

    But the Aussies were pressing, pressurising, pushing for the error. Joe Root was less than fluent, his misery ended by a nick behind after Michael Carberry had left one on to off stump. 96-1 became 106-3.

  12.  
    CATCH UP ONLINE

    BBC Sport brings you all the news and analysis from the first Test throughout the day. Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew and chief sports writer Tom Fordyce are in Melbourne, while you can see everything you've missed at-a-glance with our Ashes catch-up.

    In addition, you can hear the Pint-Sized Ashes two-minute review, as well as the thoughts of Aggers and Boycott in the TMS podcast.

  13. 0716: 

    For a while in the first half of the day, it looked like England would make Clarke regret his decision. Runs came at a decent lick, Alastair Cook looked in good touch before he edged Peter Siddle to second slip. At 96-1 not long after lunch, England were in a decent position.

  14.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Joshua Tucker: At least it's not as bad as Australia on Boxing Day in 2010. Clutching at straws a bit I know, but I'll take anything.

    Martin Randall: Australian bowlers have turned Pietersen into Trott.

  15. 0714: 

    England batsman Ian Bell: "A lot of guys got starts, so it's disappointing no one got a big score. On that surface, we're probably too few runs for a few too many wickets. Hopefully, with Kev still there, maybe we'll get over 300.

    "We have to find the right balance of putting pressure on the bowler. You can't just stand there and try to survive, but sometimes you can only hit what you get given.

    "There's no arguments with the pitch. It felt a little bit English this morning, but as the sun came out it was fantastic to bat on."

  16.   
    BBC Radio Test Match SpecialCATCH UP WITH BBC RADIO

    Want to relive all the overnight action you've missed? BBC Radio 5 live sports extra will replay the entire day's play from 1100 GMT, and will play highlights from the close of play until then. Also this morning, BBC Radio 5 live brings all the best analysis and reaction on Ashes Breakfast. You can hear both 5 live and 5 live sports extra on digital radio, online and via the BBC Sport app.

  17. 0710: 

    "I can't believe I'm saying this" were the words from Michael Clarke's mouth when he chose to field first. Given the conditions, it wasn't much of a surprise. Even less of a surprise were the changes to the England team - in came Panesar for the retired Graeme Swann, Matt Prior lost his place to Jonny Bairstow.

  18.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Mark Higginson: What you need is 11 players who show bottle, only Pietersen has done this today!

    The Pete: England picked a squad based on their top 7 playing the whole series. Paying the price for it now. Where's Taylor/Compton?

  19.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Pietersen doesn't really like batting like this but he has shown there is a commitment there to battle it out in a style that is not his first love. Australia will be delighted we talked about Clarke being unsure which way to go it kind of proves it doesn't always matter who wins the toss it's who plays better on the day. It's Australia's day, England have battled but you feel 226-6 is not enough and they'll need something magical from Pietersen and stoically obdurate from Bresnan."

  20. 0708: 
    Eng 226-6

    Australia's session? Certainly. Australia's day? You'd have to say so. If you win the toss and field, six wickets is good return. As for England, they will again look back and wonder what might have been had just one batsman built on a good start. They will also be wondering what might have happened had it not been for Kevin Pietersen.

    The scorecard
  21. 0705: 
    CLOSE OF PLAY- Eng 226-6

    Bresnan ducking, weaving, Clarke halting proceedings to tinker with the field. Johnson goes full, Bresnan is half an hour late on the drive, lucky. This over is taking an age, will we get another? Another bumper, another duck. Bresnan calm in the face of the most fearsome man in a sports bra. More delaying from KP, boos from the crowd, aborted run-up from Mitch. Last ball of the day...flashing past the outside edge. Bresnan survives, Pietersen's delaying tactics do the trick. England close on 226-6.

  22.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Pietersen is the man that has held it together, it has not been vintage Pietersen, he's had a bit of luck, but he's battled away."

  23. 0658: 
    Eng 226-6

    Probably two overs left in the day, Pietersen doing more gardening than Alan Titchmarsh to make sure this Siddle over is stretched to the maximum. After a relatively slow day, the MCG is alive in the dying embers, but Pietersen is revelling in the role of party pooper. Leave, leave, leave, smash a drive for four. Mitchell Johnson interrupts some autograph-signing to wind up for his final over. Good luck, Tim Bresnan.

  24. 0654: 
    CLOSE!- Eng 222-6

    Every delivery is an event, every ball possibly has Tim Bresnan's name on it (which reminds me of Baldrick carving his name into a bullet). It's deafening as Johnson, hair bobbing, moustache bristling, tears in to the Yorkshireman. Short, fast, hostile, Bresnan gets bat between himself and a beheading, fending the ball off. Anywhere will do, it just evades the dive of Ryan Harris at leg gully. Pietersen, serene, takes a single to go to 8,115 Test runs, one more than Geoffrey Boycott in five fewer Tests. He's England fourth highest runscorer of all time.

  25.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Ollie Smith: Bairstow dismissal shows 2 things - he's not good enough for Test cricket yet; and England have no strength in depth.

    Zander Twine: Great effort so far from KP, hard graft, other batsmen will be kicking themselves after they all made starts.

    Keith Watson: Think Swanny has a point, just saying.

  26. 0650: 
    CLOSE!- Eng 220-6

    If Kevin Pietersen goes, the MCG might explode. He comes close, an edge off the returning Peter Siddle falls short of the slips. It's been a largely sleepy day, England were asked to bat but the ball has done little. Wickets have come from relentless Aussie pressure. Club 18-30 has had plenty of members, but a watchful Pietersen stands firm in the cricketing Colosseum, a sole England gladiator trying to hold back the Aussie lions by himself. It's theatre.

  27. 0646: 
    APPEAL - NOT OUT- Eng 216-6

    The MCG is alive, 90,000 or so roaring, clapping and whistling Johnson to the crease. He pins new man Tim Bresnan, the whole of Australia appeals, but umpire Dar has seen the inside edge. When a comedy hat blows on to the pitch, Chris Rogers puts it on his head. It adds to the feeling that Australia are having fun at England's expense, and the tourists really are taking on an entire city, state and nation.

  28.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Johnson in this series exposes any kind of frailty and understandably, given the amount of series he's played, Bairstow showed some frailty. Sheer pace, there was a flicker of swing but it was more pace."

  29. 0642: 
    WICKET- Bairstow b Johnson 10 (Eng 216-6)
    Jonny Bairstow is bowled by Mitchell Johnson for 10

    Bowled him! Mitchell Johnson is too good for Jonny Bairstow. We said Bairstow was a candidate for being bowled, and he loses off stump to one that passes through a gap as wide as the Channel. The first ball of the over is a top edge over the keeper for six, but when Johnson goes full, Bairstow is nowhere near to playing it. Odd from the Aussies, they turn to where I think the Barmy Army are, waving and putting fingers on lips.

    Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook 27), 2-96 (Carberry 38), 3-106 (Root 24), 4-173 (Bell 27), 5-202 (Stokes 14), 6-215 (Bairstow 10)

    Johnson's figures: 17.4-1-57-2

    Full match scorecard

  30.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "Jonny Bairstow has been bowled quite a few times, that bottom hand gets a bit tight and that makes him play across the line, if he can relax that bottom hand he generally gets it through nice and straight. No real swing with the second new nut but Michael Clarke will be thinking one more tonight will justify his decision at the toss."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  31. 0639: 
    Eng 208-5 (Harris 2-32 from 20)

    Good from Pietersen, absorbing what Ryan Harris has to throw at him then pulling the short ball for a couple. Throughout this series, Geoffrey Boycott has been saying that KP is incapable of playing patient innings. This 139-ball vigil is trying to prove Sir G wrong.

  32.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    dukkhaboy: Harris will have bowled 20 overs by end of the day. Should have made him do that two days running in each of the first 3 tests.

    Chris Greenwood: If we can maintain this runs to wickets ratio, we are on for a 400 innings. With tailenders though I expect to see 300-350.

  33. 0635: 
    Eng 206-5 (Pietersen 56, Bairstow 2)

    What's the best way to play fast bowling? From t'other end, lad. Pietersen pinches one, leaving Bairstow to dance to Johnson's tune. Short leg, leg gully, three slips, a gully. Bairstow's first movement is for his back foot to go leg side - I'm not saying he's backing off, but that's quite an odd sight for a Test batsman. JB up to the task, 25 minutes or seven overs to go.

  34.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "England have played some nice forceful straight drives but they just haven't managed to get it past the bowler. You'll see likes of Warner, full of confidence, how they strike the ball."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  35. 0630: 
    Eng 205-5 (82 overs)

    Replays of the Stokes dismissal show what a good delivery that was from Johnson. Moving away at pace, it was a good nut for a relatively new batsman to get. Australia will now come hard at Bairstow, knowing that one more wicket gets them into the flimsy tail. Not only will he get the chin music from Johnson, but Ryan Harris will go straight to test out the Yorkshireman's tendency to play across the line. So far, JB is showing the maker's name.

  36.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "It's so difficult for Jonny Bairstow because he's not had any cricket and he's going to have to keep wicket as well. It's such a difficult ask on tour these days because you don't get any games. It's the perfect opportunity for him, though."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  37. 0625: 
    Eng 204-5 (Pietersen 54, Bairstow 2)

    Jonny Bairstow, this is your moment. Recalled to the England side after being dropped for the final Test of the summer, he finds himself a place lower in the batting order and with the keeping gloves for the first time. Bairstow had some trouble with the short stuff at the start of his career and immediately has a short leg for company. Bumper, well ducked, nice push for a couple to get off the mark.

  38.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "Good delivery from Mitchell Johnson, bit of movement, hint of bounce, these next 10 overs can go a long way to deciding the match, you could quite easily see England having a real poor first day."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  39. 0621: 
    WICKET- Stokes c Watson b Johnson 14 (Eng 202-5)
    Mitchell Johnson celebrates

    The new ball reaps instant rewards, and England's current goldenboy is sent on his way. Mitchell Johnson immediately had the conker in his hand and he needed only three deliveries to strike, finding the edge of Ben Stokes' bat, with Shane Watson not having to move at first slip to complete the catch. This day could go downhill for England very quickly.

    Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook 27), 2-96 (Carberry 38), 3-106 (Root 24), 4-173 (Bell 27), 5-202 (Stokes 14)

    Johnson's figures: 15.3-1-46-1

    Full match scorecard

  40. 0618: 
    Eng 201-4 (80 overs)

    There is nothing to fear except fear itself, and Ben Stokes knows no fear. A rock back to biff Lyon through the covers for four, then a skip to hammer high, straight and long for a maximum. "What have you lads been playing at? I'll show you what to do." New ball due. Game changer.

  41.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Ando at the MCG: Absorbing day's Test cricket. Stayed in the balance all day. A day for the cricketing purists. The record crowd very dispersed.

  42. 0614: 
    Eng 190-4

    The flies that were so visible this morning are still there, buzzing around Ben Stokes as the shadows lengthen. With Siddle charging in, Mitchell Johnson goes through some stretches, readying himself for the new ball. As clouds sweep past the sun, momentarily plunging the ground into darkness, Stokes takes a couple through the off side.

  43. 0611: 
    CATCH UP ONLINE

    BBC Sport brings you all the news and analysis from the first Test throughout the day. Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew and chief sports writer Tom Fordyce are in Melbourne, while you can see everything you've missed at-a-glance with our Ashes catch-up.

    In addition, you can hear the Pint-Sized Ashes two-minute review, as well as the thoughts of Aggers and Boycott in the TMS podcast.

  44. 0609: 
    Eng 187-4 (Pietersen 52, Stokes 2)

    Just looking at the England scorecard, the dismissed batsmen have gone for 27, 38, 24 and 27. All have got starts and then got out. A chap at my club, who revels in telling us how tough it was in his day, loves to refer to "Club 18-30". His point being that once you get in, go big. Quiet over from Lyon, he'll probably bowl one more before the new nut.

  45.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Well played Kevin, he's grafted, not one of the finest innings he'll cherish but it might be one of the helpful ones for England."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  46. 0605: 
    50 FOR KEVIN PIETERSEN- Eng 184-4

    Well batted and well battled, Kevin Pietersen. He goes to a 35th half-century in Test cricket from 119 balls by clipping Peter Siddle through square leg for a couple. Applause in Melbourne, but boos too, presumably from home fans. It's been most un-KP-like, but he's doing the job for his team. Now, he has to steel himself for the battle against the new ball. If he can get through that and see it to the close, he may just get his rewards tomorrow.

  47.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Richard Powell: If only Harris' bowling was as careless as his tweets. Great line and length and now challenging Johnson for Man Of The Series.

    Stephen Vallance: Maybe KP is sick of playing so defensive.

    Dean Lewis: Batsman are making the Australia bowlers look best in the world, really 2-24 Harris off 17, is he that good?

  48. 0602: 
    Eng 182-4 (86 overs)

    What was that song about the old lady who swallowed a fly? Didn't it end with her going after a horse? Stokes is dancing to Lyon, the first sign of an England batsman coming down the pitch. He gets a single to get off the mark, with KP following suit. Four overs to the new ball, less than an hour left in the day.

  49.   
    BBC Radio Test Match SpecialCATCH-UP WITH BBC RADIO

    Want to relive all the overnight action you've missed? BBC Radio 5 live sports extra will replay the entire day's play from 1100 GMT, and will play highlights from the close of play until then. Also this morning, BBC Radio 5 live brings all the best analysis and reaction on Ashes Breakfast. You can hear both 5 live and 5 live sports extra on digital radio, online and via the BBC Sport app.

  50. 0558: 
    Eng 179-4 (Pietersen 45, Stokes 0)

    After a conflab between Pietersen, Stokes, the physio and a couple of reserves, KP pulls his gloves back on and continues. Through all that fuss, the crowd were as understanding as you might expect, chanting very un-Christmassy things that I wouldn't be allowed to print. Pietersen gets through the over, but still looks rough. Maybe his Christmas hangover has just kicked in. We've all been there.

  51.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "It was catchable at this level, it was going at a reasonable height, say six times out of 10 you would catch that."

  52. 0555: 
    DROPPED CATCH- Eng 178-4
    Kevin Pietersen

    My word, another let-off for Kevin Pietersen from another poor shot. It's a front-foot pull off Harris, straight at that short mid-wicket which must have been there when KP sat down for Christmas dinner. This time, though, George Bailey can't hold on. Pietersen is immediately signalling to the dressing room, waiting for the physio down on his haunches. Frankly, he looks like he might throw up. Has he swallowed a fly? Physio gone, next ball pulled in the same direction for four. KP down again, physio back on. What's the problem, Kev? Might he retire ill?

  53.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Matthew Ball: This is the problem with batting 'the Boycott way' not enough runs on the board when wickets fall.

    James Gibbs: England look shot ......no confidence at all, shocking.

    Richard Hoskins: England will kill Test cricket at home if they continue like this.

  54. 0550: 
    Eng 174-4 (74 overs)

    With only seven overs until the new ball, Ben Stokes, England's newest saviour of an all-rounder, arrives to join Kevin Pietersen. Together, they create a fine pair of arm tattoos and, when Mitchell Johnson comes back, we'll have huge battle of the ink. Leftie Stokes, his collar upturned, first has the job of defending Nathan Lyon, which he does on the front foot.

  55.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "It was a reward for Harris and some of the other bowlers who have been persistent in bowling in that corridor of uncertainty outside off-stump. The pitch is not coming on and if you bowl it on that perfect line and length on the fourth stump - one outside the off-stump - even if it doesn't do anything, they can nick it."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  56. 0543: 
    WICKET- Bell c Haddin b Harris 27 (Eng 173-4)
    Ian Bell is out

    There it is! The Australia pressure has its reward, they have squeezed the life out of England and the excellent Ryan Harris has done for Ian Bell. It's an in-between length on off stump, just nibbling away and Bell is stuck on the crease to edge through to Brad Haddin. Before the catch is taken, Bell's groan can be heard on the stump mic. The 'G erupts, Australia see the door ajar. Harris has 2-24 from 17.

    Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook 27), 2-96 (Carberry 38), 3-106 (Root 24), 4-173 (Bell 27)

    Bell's statistics: 124 minutes, 98 balls, one four

    Harris' figures: 17-8-24-2

    Full match scorecard

  57.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Simon Blaze: Can say England's batting has been slow but Australia's field placements have been spot on today

    Stuart Flavell: KP criticised when plays shots and when he plays cautiously!! Aussies bowling well, England battling, just good Test cricket!

    Brent Marrow: This performance takes me back to the Atherton days when 200 plus for not too many was considered a good day, times change.

  58. 0540: 
    Eng 173-3 (72 overs)

    Is this absorbing, or dull? Are we duty bound to say attritional cricket is interesting so as not to be branded oiks who know nothing about the game? Is it like going to a fancy restaurant and saying you enjoyed the food when, really, you'd rather have a Pot Noodle? Or pretending to like the Beatles when you actually own everything M People ever did? Maybe it's like professing to know all about Monty Python, but really you like Mr Bean.

  59.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "They're not going to give anything away, Australia, and why should England? If they lose two early wickets in the morning anything could happen and they could be out for a low score again."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

  60. 0537: 
    Eng 167-3 (Pietersen 37, Bell 24)

    Pietersen has patches of dust on his shirt and left leg as a result of that dive. He's trying to get moving, break the Aussie strangle, driving the returning Ryan Harris on the up, but only for a single. Bell, becalmed, is happy with a textbook forward defence, elbows higher than a princess's cheekbones. There have been 13 fours and one six in 71 overs today.

  61.  
    Text 81111

    Steve: I didn't realise Bell had any critics. After last summer he pretty much had a free ride in this series. He certainly hasn't had a shocker.

    Glen, Kinsley: Will people stop slating England's innings so far. We've not collapsed, they are trying to build confidence.

  62. 0532: 
    Eng 166-3 (Pietersen 36, Bell 24)
    Kevin Pietersen dives to make his ground

    Pietersen, the cat on the hot tin roof, looks to manufacture something off Lyon. A whip, a cut, another whip. All the time finding the fielders. Roars in the crowd, but it's not for the cricket, they are making their own entertainment. A drive to mid off, Pietersen scampers...throw...dive...home. I asked for strike rotation, but steady on.

  63.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "We thought it would swing around this morning, it only just offered but nothing much. It's good for batting, apart from a lack of pace and an attack that gives you nothing, so it's a mental battle."

  64. 0529: 
    Eng 165-3 (Siddle 1-35 off 18)

    What do we make of England's approach in the last session and a bit? Is it necessary caution in the face of tight Aussie bowling, or are they digging their own grave? Is it an over-reaction to the criticism they have taken, or a legitimate means of competing in this match? There's the odd chant of "boring" from fans under the blue Melbourne sky, with only a leg bye coming from the Siddle over. KP has 36 from 97 balls, a strike-rate of 37.11.

  65.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Bell looks totally serene and Pietersen is probably trying to look serene but he doesn't convince me, I just sense this is not how he really likes it at all."

  66. 0526: 
    Eng 164-3

    Only 10 runs have come from the past seven overs, England are struggling to rotate the strike but at least milk a little from Lyon. A couple to Bell take him to 1,000 Test runs in 2013. Only Michael Clarke, with 1077, has more.

  67.  
    A world record attendance at the MCG

    BBC TMS: We have the official WORLD RECORD attendance at the MCG. Previous highest was 90,800 on 11 February 1961 v West Indies.

  68. 0521: 
    Eng 160-3 (Pietersen 35, Bell 20)

    A huge stand-shaped shadow is just starting to creep across the ground. It's only a few yards past the boundary at the moment - if it was a fielder it would be saving two. Vicious bumper from Siddle to Pietersen, who is down to duck in a flash. Steven Smith getting loose, so we might see some of his leg breaks between now and the new ball. A maiden. Nothing to see here.

  69.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Howard Horner: If this day's play was a Christmas present, it'd be socks. Not exciting, but you quite needed a couple new pairs. It'll do.

    Graham Beer: Is this Pietersen and Bell, or is this a pair of Christmas holiday pantomime dames dressed up as Pietersen and Bell?

  70. 0515: 
    THAT'S A RECORD- Eng 160-3

    Yep, we've been toying with it all day, but with a sign on the big screen saying the attendance inside the MCG is now 90,381, we have a new world record for a crowd at a day of Test cricket. But that surely begs the question, what have the latecomers been doing for the rest of the day?

  71.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "England are battling away. It hasn't been very spectacular but they have worked hard and since tea they have rotated the strike, especially against the spinner Lyon. Siddle v Pietersen is still a source of unrest for England supporters. It's a nice battle, though, and one day Pietersen will prevail."

    Listen to Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live

  72. 0514: 
    Eng 159-3 (65 overs)

    Thanks, JL. Siddle in the evening sunshine, engaged in a battle of the figure-hugging shirts with Pietersen. This pair continue to build, single on the leg side. There are 25 overs remaining in the day, 15 until the new ball, but we can't play past 0700 GMT.

  73.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Henry: If KP and Bell want to prove their critics wrong; no time like the present. Get stuck in and have a whack lads.

    Aston Radford: Just hitting 5am, and I'm still wide awake watching the cricket.

  74. 0511: 
    Eng 158-3
    Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen

    Pietersen anxiously watches a push narrowly evade the clutches of Lyon in his follow-through. The fifty stand arrives, these two have been in residence for 22 overs and it has not been their normal fluent fare, but they are still there, and I hand you back to Stephan.

  75. 0506: 
    Eng 154-3 (Bell 19, Pietersen 30)

    A crunching drive from Pietersen is not completely out of the screws, or else the fielder wouldn't have seen it, but England's premier batsman reaches 30 for only the third time in the series.

  76.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Benjamin O'Gara: If we did see KP go, I think Alex Hales could be an option. Attacking and would take the game away, with Buttler.

    Richard Powell: On the first day of the Test match my true love gave to me, three sloppy wickets, two stubborn batsmen and a Nathan Coulter-Nile.

  77. 0504: 
    Eng 152-3

    Australia have only used six bowlers in the series thus far, mainly because they haven't needed any more. Skipper Clarke and even David Warner are seen loosening their bowling arms but Watson is back on the field, whether he will trundle in again remains to be seen. Another innocuous over from Lyon yet matters still rather delicately poised.

  78. 0500: 
    Eng 150-3 (Bell 17, Pietersen 28)

    The Barmy Army make their presence known in the vast stadium with a rendition of their signature tune. Siddle returns but the impasse continues, Pietersen still resisting the temptation to unleash something from his cavalier range, a maiden from the nagging seamer.

  79. 0457: 
    Eng 150-3

    Not often we see an ungainly stroke from Ian Bell but he tries to force Lyon away and miscues to short mid-wicket for no run.

  80. 0453: 
    Eng 149-3 (Bell 17, Pietersen 27)

    Johnson, still charging in with three slips in place, hasn't got the radar quite right after tea, nothing has come back in to the right-handers yet and Bell is quite content to let the ball pass rather harmlessly wide of his off-stump.

  81.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "You sense with Pietersen he is ready to go. He's been watchful but now he's thinking about that mid-wicket region and hitting the ball into Bay 13."

    Listen to BBC Test Match Special on BBC Radio 5 live

  82. 0448: 
    Eng 148-3

    A deft leg glance brings Pietersen three off Lyon, and with Watson off the field there are not so many options for the Australians. (Cue clatter of wickets)

  83. 0445: 
    Eng 145-3 (Bell 17, Pietersen 23)
    The MCG

    Today's attendance so far at the mammoth MCG is 90,581, only a fraction down on the record of 90,800 set in 1961 at Australia's match against the West Indies. Mitchell Johnson of old makes a brief return with a wide that barely pitched on the cut strip outside off-stump, but that's not going to happen again is it?

  84. 0440: 
    Eng 141-3

    Steve Smith takes cover at short-leg as spinner Lyon drops halfway down the pitch to allow Bell all the time in the world to smash through mid-wicket for a rare boundary.

  85. 0437: 
    Eng 136-3 (Bell 11, Pietersen 21)

    Even Johnson's looseners are up at 90mph but there haven't been any of the devastating inswinging yorkers yet, Bell struck on the pad but Aleem Dar rejects an appeal and the hosts decide against using their one remaining review.

  86. 0432: 

    Pietersen is going to be facing Mitchell Johnson, who has already cranked up the speedometer to 97mph today so there should be some fireworks one way or the other.

  87. 0429: 

    Seasonal greetings to you all, I feel rather like Peter Baxter holding the fort in a studio when the line went from Faisalabad in the old Radio 3 Medium Wave days. Well let's see what Kevin Pietersen will have in store for us in the final session. Any chance of a repeat of THAT innings at Headingley last year, driving Dale Steyn straight back over his head in one of the most scintillating demonstrations of strokeplay by an England batsman in recent memory.

    The scorecard
  88. 0418: 

    Which leaves us nicely poised for the evening session. We wonder if batting will get easier, but Australia's bowlers have been a collective Christmas Scrooge. Can England ride the storm and cash in, or will the Aussies get stuck into the middle order and tail? Jamie Lillywhite will talk you through the early evening.

  89. 0416: 

    Nothing would come for Pietersen and Bell, runs at a premium for England's most crucial partnership. Shane Watson limped off, Pietersen was caught over the boundary, England got to the break without further losses.

  90.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special
    Nathan Coulter-Nile

    "The missed chance of a catch on the boundary may be a crucial moment. Pietersen is sort of off and running so it's looking slightly rosier for England than it did when the innings stalled. The day could go either way but it's been hard work for England."

  91. 0415: 

    Australia cranked up the pressure on England during that baking afternoon session - "bowling dry" I think is the modern parlance. Mistakes came from Carberry and Root as the tourists slipped from 96-1 to 106-3

  92. 0413: 
    Eng 135-3

    What to make of all that? Australia's session, but overall honours about even?

  93. 0412: 
    TEA INTERVAL- Eng 135-3

    Right then, last over before tea. Oooohhhh, that's an absolute rozzer from Nathan Lyon. Turn from around the wicket, cutting Pietersen in half, only the bounce taking the ball over the top of the stumps saves the England man. Ian Bell defends until tea, which England take on 135-3. A painstaking session.

  94. 0408: 
    Eng 132-3 (Johnson 0-39 off 12)

    Mitchell Johnson is wound up for what will probably be his only over before the interval. After that intense Aussie pressure and the Pietersen non-dismissal, England are actually looking a little more relaxed. Comfortable singles are exchanged, then, as Johnson goes above 94mph, Pietersen gets a couple of the leg side. Shane Watson, by the way, has a pain in his right groin and is being assessed. Assessed how, exactly?

  95. 0403: 
    Eng 127-3 (Pietersen 15, Bell 10)
    Nathan Coulter-Nile of Australia looks on after failing to catch Kevin Pietersen

    The replays of the Coulter-Nile non-catch are brilliant. Behind him, Aussie fans were up and cheering as the catch was taken, but hands went to heads as he skipped over the rope. Coulter-Nile, white sunhat on his head, put his hand to his eyes. He couldn't believe it. Seven minutes or so until tea.

  96.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Michael Banks: Wasn't it Einstein who said "Insanity; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

    Marc Sepetowski: Difference in run rate is down to captaincy. Clarke has set good, imaginative, aggressive fields. Cook orthodox!

  97. 0358: 
    CHANCE!- Eng 122-3

    Here it is, you just knew the big shot was coming from Pietersen sooner or later. Short from Harris, hooked towards long leg. This is going to be six or out. Into the hands of sub fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile...carried over the boundary...ball thrown up, but it's too late. Pietersen survives, with six to his name. What an escape. Will we look back on that as a decisive moment?

  98.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "You can tell now Pietersen is completely stuck, he's not too sure how to play it and the Aussies are giving him nothing."

  99. 0355: 
    Eng 115-3 (50 overs)

    My word, Kevin Pietersen has a run, his first for 26 balls and 47 minutes. It's ugly too, an unconvincing single off Lyon. Is the chat getting to KP? He says it's not, he says he's "good as gold", but this is not a Pietersen knock. That's not a criticism mind, more a pondering on an oddity. He even follows it up with another a single, moving to six from 40 balls.

  100.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Phil Cockman: Same old same old, batsmen getting in and getting out! Is KP being patient, or is he out of from?

    Nick Hebross: 12 runs from 12 overs... England doing a wonderful job batting to save the game.

    Richard Parfitt: Compton dropped for Root because Root was meant to be more fluent, now they're talking about dropping Root down because he bats too slow.

  101. 0351: 
    Eng 110-3 (Harris 1-15 from 14)

    Still Harris, runs still as likely as seeing the Queen ordering a donner kebab. Is this excellence from Australia? Fear from England? A bit of both? England will feel that, if they can come through this, then batting will get easier. Australia will feel that England are going nowhere and that a wicket is right around the corner. Slow scoring, but absorbing stuff.

  102.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Watson doesn't look in extreme discomfort, Michael Clarke took the decision for him, gave him his cap and said 'off you go'. The one thing in Australia's favour is they have put a stranglehold on England's batting, there is no impetus to the innings. Pietersen has played an extraordinary innings, four off 37 balls."

  103. 0344: 
    OUCH!- Eng 110-3
    Shane Watson

    Now then, the injury waiting to happen, has happened. Shane Watson, who never looks like he can walk back to his mark, let alone run up, has pulled up. Michael Clarke is down to his bowler in a flash, ordering him off for treatment. A problem for the Aussies? Watson provides relief for the creaking Ryan Harris as well as doing an excellent holding job. Nathan Lyon, around the wicket to right-hander Pietersen, completes the over.

  104.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Chris Harvey: 3am, can't sleep so stick the Ashes on. 3.45am, can't stay awake so go back to bed. Mission accomplished, thanks England.

    Tim Footman: Christmas songs: Do You See What ICC.

  105. 0341: 
    Eng 110-3 (Pietersen 4, Bell 4)

    Through this period of Aussie pressure, England have not often looked to rotate the strike. Singles have been in short supply. Some good running does at least bring Bell a couple to fine leg, signalling a tinker with the field. Two slips, two catchers on the off side, one on the leg. Harris bustles, Bell forward, shouting "no" almost before he's completed his forward defence. Pietersen, by the way, has four from 31 balls.

  106.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Liam Mansfield: Joe Root hasn't convinced me yet, one for the future, can see him doing a bit of a Bell and being in and out of the side a lot

    James Pockett: Cricketers in Christmas songs: Finn - the bleak midwinter...

  107. 0337: 
    Eng 108-3

    Want to keep it tight? Get Shane Watson on. Maidens are his modus operandi. Incidentally, check out Watson's Cricinfo profile pic. You don't often see him crack that smile. Speaking of smiles, not many on the England dugout earlier. One off Watson's over - bowling dry used to be the England plan. Australia are out-Englanding the tourists.

    Matt Prior on the England bench
  108.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "This is where England have been stuck for a while, they've done this on many occasions after getting a decent start. You can see there are players out of form and the only way to get back into form is time in the middle. Darren Lehmann when he was out of form, which wasn't often, whatever the situation he'd go and whack it but it's really hard when people are saying you have to knuckle down."

  109. 0332: 
    Eng 107-3 (Pietersen 4, Bell 1)

    We have spoken about Australia looking to constrict England, tightening the tourniquet to force the error. Only 10 runs have come from the previous 10 overs, with Carberry and Root both falling. Can Pietersen and Bell soak up the pressure? Is it better to go on the counter? If you wait and fall, they say you brought it on yourself. If you look to break the shackles and fail, they say you have no patience. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

  110.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "It's been the same throughout the series, the Aussies have felt they could control the England middle order. Pietersen and Bell have not been in great form, you can almost hear the squeeze."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  111. 0328: 
    Eng 106-3 (44 overs)

    Even though Ben Stokes got a wonderful hundred in the last Test, Australia will still see this as the key stand to break. Stokes ton or no Stokes ton, England still have inexperience at six and seven, followed by the bowlers. Australia move Pietersen's leg-side catcher to a very straight short mid-on (the place where no batsman ever gets caught), with the bustling Victorian sending down another maiden.

  112.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Benjamin O'Gara: I think Root is suffering from being moved around the order too much, not knowing what tempo to play can be deadly.

    Si Lomas: Joe Root is so easy to bowl to, he just doesn't play any shots to put the bowler under pressure.

    Kathryn Burgess: Cricket's Christmas Songs: Once in Rahul Dravid's city stood a lowly Kapil Dev.

  113. 0325: 
    Eng 106-3

    Replays show what a good delivery that was from Harris. On first glance, it looked as though Root didn't need to play, so wide was he drawn, but he was undone by the seam movement. If the ball had continued on its path, it would have endangered the off stump, but the seam movement found the edge. Ian Bell the new man, England's best two players at the crease. They desperately need a score from at least one of them.

  114.   
    Henry Blofeld, BBC Test Match Special

    "Root played and missed so often it was almost as if he had a hole in his bat."

  115.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "Of all the innings Joe Root has played for England, today has been a struggle. He's not really known what to play and what not to, he's almost been on his toes which hasn't allowed any stability. The Aussies are starting to justify that decision to bowl first."

  116. 0319: 
    WICKET- Root c Haddin b Harris 24 (Eng 106-3)
    Joe Root walks off

    Joe Root is put out of misery by Ryan Harris, as Australia seize control. It's been a scratchy effort from Root, he's looked well short of his best. So often has he looked loose on off stump and here he is feeling for one as he prods half-forward, getting a tiny feather through to Brad Haddin. From 96-1, England are under the cosh.

    Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook 27), 2-96 (Carberry 38), 3-106 (Root 24)

    Root's statistics: 115 minutes, 82 balls, two fours

    Harris' figures: 10.1-6-12-1

    Full match scorecard

  117.  
    Text 81111

    Adam: Re: Cricket Christmas Songs. Once in Rahul Dravid's City.

    Ray, Southampton: Australia coach Darren Lehmann is duty bound to nominate the English player of the series. What are his options? How embarrassing and humiliating might his reasoning be! Carberry may win it for "hanging in there" Seriously, what can he say which is positive?

  118. 0319: 
    Eng 106-2

    Siddle, a sweatband on his left arm, permanent grimace on his face, charges in towards Pietersen. Is that a sign that KP is just a little subdued? A straight half-volley is pushed back and not whipped through the leg side. That's more like it - a booming straight drive, but stopped by the bowler. We've seen this patience from Pietersen before, will it end it tears?

  119.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Pietersen is the one player in both sides capable of something special. You won't get me criticising his talent, his talent I adore but he's done stupid things in four innings out of six so far in this series. He plays great innings - I don't think he's a great player - great players turn it on more."

  120. 0314: 
    DRINKS BREAK- Eng 106-2

    Halfway through the day, we've had 41 overs, so we're four behind. The cloud of earlier has disappeared, the sunshine is glorious. It's a proper Aussie Christmas.

  121.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Max Yelland: Sachin had his name on the blade so does Pollard of West Indies

  122.   
    Tom Fordyce, Chief sports writer in Melbourne

    "For all the rampaging of Johnson and Harris, Australia's success with the ball in this Ashes series has come from pressure - stopping the scoreboard turning over, nailing the batsman to the crease. The accuracy of Siddle and Watson has been just as important in this slow strangulation as the penetration of their more heralded team-mates."

  123. 0312: 
    CLOSE!- Eng 106-2

    Ooohhh, there's the edge from Root that Johnson has been searching for. Root, the man who needs crowbarring forwards, is saved by his soft hands, the ball dropping short of the slips. Australia will persist with this plan, Johnson angling the ball across Root on an inbetween length, playing on Root's reluctance to commit fully on to the front foot. End of the first hour after lunch, we take drinks.

  124.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "I don't mind Pietersen playing a shot or two, he can take the game away from the opposition. You don't want a steady player at number four."

  125. 0307: 
    Eng 104-2 (Siddle 1-32 off 11)

    Slight hold up as Pietersen spots something behind Siddle, the batsman making a big circle shape with his arms. With "KP" written on the front his bat, is Pietersen the only man in world cricket to have his name on the blade? Having said that, Brian Lara used to use a brand named after himself. Short from Siddle, Pietersen pulls handsomely in front of square to get off the mark. 13 balls on nought for Kev.

  126.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Chris Harvey: England going great guns here, already beaten Australia's total from the first innings at the MCG in 2010/11...

    Ben Broadhurst: Looking to Ashes 2015, England need to go with: Cook Root J.Taylor Bell Ballance Stokes Bairstow Broad Finn Kerrigan Anderson

  127. 0302: 
    Eng 100-2

    Sun still shining, Root's kit looking washing-machine white in the brightness. The occasional shadow sweeps across the ground, sometimes coinciding with the run-up of dark destroyer Johnson. Rare field set - five slips. The Aussies still fancy Root to nick off. Play and miss, one catcher moves to leg slip. Maiden completed.

  128.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Richard Powell: Cricket Christmas songs - Mitchell Bowls And Whines?

    Thomas Lazarus: Clarke the herald angels sing.

    Huw Corcoran: Deck the Pauls with boughs of Colly.

  129. 0258: 
    Eng 100-2 (Root 22, Pietersen 0)

    Right then Joe Root, you're at the non-striker's end when Kevin Pietersen is still on nought. Back up, get ready to run. Pietersen has possibly the widest stance of any batsman I've seen, his feet are much more than shoulder width apart. He batters the toe of his bat into the ground, but isn't looking for that Red Bull run. Yet.

  130.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Paul Drinkwater: Carberry has to turn these starts in to real runs, let's hope KP is in the mood otherwise England will be in trouble.

    Paul Roberts: Carberry can't keep getting out after making a good start. Openers who never convert are consigned to "nearly men" status.

    Matthew Ball: Carberry can't keep getting out for 30's if he wants a Test career. Doesn't matter how good he might look in the process.

  131. 0254: 
    Eng 99-2 (37 overs)

    Pietersen has taken a lot of stick during this series, but surely he is in no danger of being dropped? After all, we're talking about the fastest and youngest man to 8,000 Test runs for England. Or am I missing the point? He's asked to face one Johnson delivery after Root pinches a single, coming half-forward to cover up an off-stump hunter.

  132.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Carberry doesn't work the ball for ones and twos, his defence is quite solid, he gets behind it but if he doesn't get anything to hit he's not good at manoeuvering the ball. He allows pressure to build, there are some things about his batting I like but his shot selection to keep the scoreboard ticking is poor."

  133. 0249: 
    Eng 98-2 (Root 21, Pietersen 0)
    Kevin Pietersen

    It's Pietersen at the crease, so Peter Siddle is immediately given the ball. It's the set menu from Australia - catcher posted at short mid-wicket, Siddle set to camp on off stump. Siddle chants around the 'G, fans clapping and whistling the local boy to the crease. It's drama, England's best batsman against the man who has dismissed him more times than any other bowler. Stalemate. For now.

  134.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Matt in Melbourne: On a fishing trip to the west of Scotland I was warned about the midges by a farmer ..."beware the flying teeth, if you kill one there will be a billion at the funeral." My Aussie friends here in Melbourne describe the constant waving away of Fly's as The Aussie Salute.

  135. 0244: 
    Eng 97-2

    Pietersen is the non-striker as Johnson winds up. Eeessshhh! That delivery is 96.8mph. I'm sure that's the fastest of the series. Gasps around the MCG as the speedo reading is shown on the screen. I've got no idea how I'd feel about facing a delivery of near 97mph. I suspect I'd need new trousers.

  136.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Cricket-themed Christmas songs:

    Joe Thompson: Johnny Mathis's 1976 song was clearly celebrating the King of Spain and his birth 3 years prior - "When A. Giles Is Born"

    Will Moores: "Ian Bell Rock" Too easy?

  137. 0242: 
    Eng 96-2

    Boos before the new man comes down the stairs tell us that Kevin Pietersen is on his way to the crease. Surely it's time for KP to deliver?

  138.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "He's having to drag himself off, he must have thought this was a brilliant opportunity. It's not the first time he's been out trying to leave the ball in this series. Carberry will be furious with himself, a misjudgement, good planning again from the Australians but so frustrating for him because he's got in again."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  139. 0238: 
    WICKET- Carberry b Watson 38 (Eng 96-2)
    Michael Carberry

    This really is the series in microcosm. So often, England have been masters of their own downfall. Starts are made, but mistakes give Australia the advantage. And so it is. Michael Carberry, well set, shoulders arms to Shane Watson, but the ball from around the wicket just clips the off bail. Australia are jubilant, Carberry has to drag himself off.

    Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook 27), 2-96 (Carberry 38)

    Carberry's statistics: 145 minutes, 103 balls, 6 fours

    Watson's figures: 5-2-10-1

    Full match scorecard

  140.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    John in Minneapolis: Re: Cricket Christmas songs: Sachin Baby.

    Andy in Brecon: Unfortunately with Tremlett / Finn / Rankin struggling, it hasn't been a case of 'A paceman came travelling' (Chris De Burgh Xmas classic)

  141. 0235: 
    Eng 92-1 (Carberry 34, Root 19)

    With little happening, Australia turn to the extra pace of Mitchell Johnson, but that only helps Carberry go up and over the slips for four. Throughout the series, the menace of Johnson's bowling has reflected the bounce of his black hair - the more dangerous the bowling, the more bounce of the bonce. Now, the mop is matted flat. With the sun burning, the floodlights are axed.

  142.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "I suppose in the old days when there was no match referee and no Mark Nicholas chasing you with a microphone you could just chase the coin and say 'what do you want to do then?' when you didn't want to win the toss."

  143. 0229: 
    Eng 87-1 (Watson 0-6 from 4)

    It's now more like the Aussie Christmas that we huddled in the frozen UK dream of. Bright sunshine burning brightly, sunscreen being slopped on, hats and shades the order of the day. If there wasn't cricket to watch, you'd be on the beach with a burger and a beer. Australia exercising patience, waiting for an England mistake. Watson on off stump and outside to Root. A maiden.

  144.  
    Text 81111

    Thomas, Glasgow: When steaming in, will Ryan Harris be silently whistling the festive Jona Lewie classic: "Can We Stop The Carberry?"

    Do I spot a flurry of cricket-themed Christmas songs heading my way?

  145. 0225: 
    Eng 87-1

    According to Ed Smith on TMS, no batsman in the series has left more balls outside off stump than Carberry. I'm not sure if his evidence is anecdotal or statistical. He turns a single, then leans on his bat as the sun glints off his lid. As Harris bustles in again, the Aussies post a Pietersen-style short mid-wicket for Root. Another single, ball doing little.

  146.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Kenny: We were once playing Carradale on the west coast of Scotland. If anyone doesn't know, the Scottish midge is RELENTLESS. The poor ump at square leg had to do the highland fling inbetween balls to maintain any sort of vision. He had to call a halt to proceedings after a few overs!

  147. 0222: 
    Eng 83-1 (Carberry 26, Root 18)

    The sunshine has illuminated the MCG, accentuating the light and dark shades of green that criss-cross the outfield. The drop-in square is much lighter than the rest of the playing surface, an outline showing where the perfect rectangle has been placed. Watson trudges in to the shimmering wicket, barely looking like he will complete the next delivery, Root defending a ducking for a maiden.

  148.  

    Melbourne Cricket ground: UPDATE: The attendance at the MCG is up around 86,000 at the lunch break.

    Fans do a Mexican Wave at the MCG
  149. 0218: 
    Eng 83-1 (29 overs)

    Did I say muggy? We have brilliant sunshine as Ryan Harris winds up his creaking body after lunch. Oh dear, that's pretty awful, down the leg side to Carberry, too far away for Brad Haddin to prevent four byes. Followed by another straight-batted drive from Root for three, it continues a decent start to this session for England.

  150.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Shane Watson has done a fine job for his captain in this series, he hasn't got many wickets but he always brings control."

  151. 0213: 
    Eng 75-1 (Carberry 26, Root 15)

    It's muggy, the ball is just wobbling a little for the Grinchy Watson. He lumbers in, his bobbing blond hair the only thing about him that moves with freedom. Root, who struggled before lunch, comes forward to drive through mid on towards the boundary. Peter Siddle chases, but the stewards' inquiry reveals a boundary.

  152.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Stuart: The fly situation at the MCG reminds me of a game I played in at Norden in the Central Lancs League in 1980 that was abandoned because of swarms of midges that descended onto the pitch. They were everywhere and even got under the old plastic visors on the batsmen's helmets so the ump's deemed it unsafe to continue.

  153. 0209: 
    David Warner, Ryan Harris and Michael Clarke walk out to the field

    Have you lunched well? Ready to continue through the night? The players are back, into the Melbourne gloom, which is brightened by the floodlights. Joe Root on strike to Shane Watson.

  154.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Richard Powell: Given its unique history and rivalry, a spur of the moment retirement at ANY stage during an Ashes series must warrant criticism.

    Tom Lambert: When was the last time England won a session? A nice novelty after the series has gone.

    Jim Bowen: Swann was surely going to be dropped and wouldn't then be recalled, so it makes sense for him to stand aside IMO.

  155. 0136: 

    So, as the players take a breather, so too do we. Go and get a brew and a turkey sandwich, steel yourself for the long night ahead. On TMS, there's a look back at the career of Graeme Swann, so stay tuned. Now, where's that flyspray?

  156. 0135: 

    England's morning? Probably. Just. They will be pleased to be only one down, while Australia might have expected more success. Still, that England middle order has been as strong as a poppadom in this series, so the Aussie will feel that two or three could go quickly. We're set for an intriguing afternoon.

    Michael Carberry
  157.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Sam Rao: Almost a decent session from England!! Scoring rate has dropped since Cook's wicket though. Need an English Hayden/Sehwag.

    Philip Donkin: Melbourne has been besieged by flies in the last week. One minute damp and cold, next it's hot, they must love it.

    Suresh Whittock: Keep calm and let Root miss the ball.

  158.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "Carberry has got himself in, he's done that regularly throughout the series, the pitch is good there'll be a bit of movement but not a huge amount. There should be runs out there but it's a confidence factor and the Australians will be feeling if they can nip one or two out it will be difficult for England."

  159. 0130: 
    LUNCH INTERVAL- Eng 71-1

    And that's yer lot, Aleem Dar calls time as Carberry plays back a Harris maiden. A decent session for England, after being asked to bat they have reached 71-1. The only blot on the Christmas card is the loss of captain Cook, but the ball hasn't done as much as we expected it would. The afternoon and evening could be time to make hay.

  160. 0127: 
    NOT OUT- Eng 71-1

    Yep, just a touch too high. There's always more excitement when the the batsman isn't playing a shot, because the ball only has to be striking the timbers, it doesn't matter where it hits him. This is an 'umpire's call' on height, so Carberry survives. It might also waste enough time to make this the last set before lunch.

  161. 0127: 
    UMPIRE REVIEW- Eng 71-1

    High?

  162. 0126: 
    UMPIRE REVIEW- Eng 71-1
    Ryan Harris appeals

    Oh dear, Carberry shouldering arms as Harris bustles in from around. Not out, but the Aussies fancy this one...

  163.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Dan Stephens: Re: Geoff Lacey (0115) rubbish. He should have accepted being dropped and retired after the series. Support the team.

    Dennis Edwards: Joe Root probably needs to change his body spray if he's going to attract that amount flies. Flies stop play - that's a new one.

    James Davies: Love the 'fly' Emirates on the umpire's back!

  164. 0125: 
    Eng 71-1 (Carberry 26, Root 11)

    Do you think Shane Watson had a Merry Christmas? He rarely cracks a smile, so I'm not sure he'd be a barrel of laughs over the turkey and sprouts. He probably finds the jokes in crackers hilarious, though. He's on to trundle his medium pacers, beating Carberry from around the wicket then, after a single, Root plays and misses with a drive. Root a touch out of sorts, battling hard. Dig in, Joe, five minutes to the break.

  165.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "Joe Root's foot movement is a little bit timid, he's certainly not good a good base and a good platform on the front foot at the minute. When he started at number six he was so pro-active but since he's moved up I think he's been a bit lost in terms of the momentum of an innings. I have to say the Australians have bowled brilliantly at him, on and around that off-stump ball after ball."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  166. 0120: 
    Eng 69-1 (25 overs)

    Plenty dream of Christmas in Australia, but at the moment there are a few drops of rain falling and flies everywhere. Metaphorically, there's no flies on Root as he turns the returning Harris for a single on the leg side. In reality, he's covered, like the toilet corner of Bear Grylls' cave. Ten minutes until lunch. If they stay one down, it will be England's morning.

  167.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Alistair Smalley: Wicketkeeper success correlates with team. If Prior has an excellent series England prosper, Haddin is outstanding - Aussies take control.

    Jacob Staton: Buttler should be keeping wicket, saw him at Trent Bridge in the one day against NZ, he was electric and kept a decent wicket.

    Sam Wright: Why has Joe Root got about 4,758 flies on his back when everyone else only have a couple?

  168. 0115: 
    Eng 68-1 (Carberry 25, Root, 9)
    Australia give Joe Root some stick

    Incidentally, each floodlight pylon is numbered by bold, black digits. Is that in case one is stolen? Turn up at the ground one morning, "someone has stolen number four!" Johnson's plan to Root is clear, push him back, then look for the edge off the fuller, wider one. Root doesn't always get fully forwards and is susceptible to the edge behind. Root up to the task, tough, pinching a single as a few drops of rain fall.

  169.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    Geoff Lacey: Re: Robert Carson (0107) What's the difference between an under performing and no longer up for it Swann retiring in the middle or at the end of the series? Some absolute nonsense being talked with regard to Swann. We know his character, he's done what he felt was right for the team

    Ed Campbell: Could Mitchell Johnson's "sports bra" be some kind of mechanical exo-skeleton enabling faster pace and accuracy? Or even worse, could it be an actual sports bra?

  170. 0112: 
    Eng 67-1

    Siddle around the wicket to Carberry, whose massive biceps withdraw the bat as the ball passes the off stump. Question, is Carberry the best cricketing electrician in the world? There can't be any electricians who are better cricketers than the Hampshire man? We could even expand that to all trades. The floodlights, miles high in the Melbourne sky, are on.

  171.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "It been an interesting passage of play, I think Michael Clarke would have expected the ball to do more. Cook will be disappointed with that shot, he probably had played as well as he has for the whole series. Joe Root is searching for a bit of rhythm and form."

  172. 0107: 
    Eng 66-1 (Carberry 25, Root 7)
    Fans at the MCG

    The wally with the whistle continues as Johnson stalks in to the shuffling Carberry. Radar awry from Mitch, leggy at 93.6mph and past Brad Haddin for four byes. Sorry to bang on about this, but I'm intrigued by the flies. Non-striker Root has them all over his back and buzzing around his head. If you're at the 'G, let me know if there's flies around your turkey sandwich. Blimey, take that Mitchell Johnson, Carberry swivelling to pull in front of square for four. Shot of the morning.

  173.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    AP: Anyone know who England's vice-captain is?

    Robert Carson: Swann upset by media coverage? How about DON'T RETIRE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ASHES?

    Pat O'Hara: Anyone got any flypaper at the MCG?

  174. 0103: 
    Eng 58-1 (21 overs)

    Speaking of things under shirts, Root looks like he's wearing a chestguard. Not sure I've seen him with one before, so he probably got it for Christmas. Siddle, grinning, nibbles one past the dangled edge as some fool in the crowd blasts a whistle. Two toots, followed by two handclaps. Repeat. It must be annoying sitting near to that.

  175.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Burnsiey: Over the 10 Test matches it's 3-3. Any chance we can win over the two series?

    Tommy Plant: I would love to be at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test, easily one of the best sporting occasions in the world!

    Joe Quigg: Don't get the love-in for the MCG, it's just another soulless concrete monstrosity which could be anywhere in the world.

  176. 0059: 
    Eng 57-1
    Mitchell Johnson fields off his own bowling

    Even though Cook has gone, the ball hasn't done enough to suggest that bowling first was the right decision on winning the toss. Still, Australia has kept the shackles on with accurate, penetrative bowling, which has been the signature manoeuvre throughout the series. Johnson, with what looks like a sports bra under his shirt, is angled through gully for four by Root.

  177.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "Carberry worries me a bit, his shapes defensively against the quicks I like but if they bottle him up and he doesn't get a run that's when I worry."

  178. 0054: 
    Eng 52-1 (Carberry 19, Root 3)

    Joe Root's angelic face has me in mind of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. He looks like he should have been singing carols in the church choir then ripping open a Furby, not having bouncers fired at his bonce. With his collar upturned and a colony of flies on his back, he covers up against Siddle.

  179.  
    Text 81111

    Graham, Yorkshire: I got 3 Christmas cricketing gifts : A stick of rhubarb, an orange and Geoff Boycott's mum's old pinney.

    Ray, Southampton: I asked Santa for a DVD of England's top run scorer and received the box set of Extras.

  180. 0050: 
    OUCH!- Eng 51-1
    Joe Root takes evasive action

    Johnson, the man with the mo, is touching 93mph, Root lucky to edge for a couple. I struggle to imagine how hard it must be to be dancing to the tune of 93mph when only a moment ago you were sitting in the dressing room. Yeeesh, take that. Root ducks, a blow on the shoulder, comes up smiling. Merry Christmas, Joe.

  181.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Freddie Caldwell: Received lots of good presents today but a session without an England wicket falling was evidently too much to ask.

    BenTurner98: I can't even leave the room to make a cup of tea without another England collapse in the making!

    CM Slatter: And there is that edge, come on, let's be honest, you were surprised England made this far without losing a wicket.

  182. 0047: 
    Eng 49-1

    Joe Root is the new man, arriving as Mitchell Johnson is wound up and Clarke directs traffic. The Test match hum is replaced by rhythmic clapping, expectant ooohhhs and aaahhhs. The 'G is alive...

  183.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "To be blunt its a tentative poke, stick your foot half heatedly down the pitch and poke at it. It's how my mum used to hang the washing out on the line. When you're not in nick you're alright for a while but the mistakes come, I've been there. When you're making all those hundreds you don't do that."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  184. 0042: 
    WICKET- Cook c Clarke b Siddle 27 (Eng 48-1)
    Peter Siddle dismisses Alastair Cook

    Gone! England's good start is ended by Peter Siddle, who sends Alastair Cook on his way. Length on off stump, Cook is lead-footed in his prod, getting a thick edge to the buckets of Michael Clarke at second slip. Cook, who had looked so good, departs with his head bowed, the MCG comes alive with chants of "Sidd-lle, Sidd-lle". Slight relief for captain Clarke?

    Siddle's figures: 4.5-0-24-1

    Full match scorecard

  185.  
    Text 81111

    Simon, Preston: I asked for an England victory and received a dream catcher.

  186. 0040: 
    Eng 46-0

    The sunlight reflects off the plastic, motorcycle-style helmet on Michael Carberry's head as Lyon skips in. Ooofff, play and miss, a quicker ball that Carberry looks to cut but is in Brad Haddin's glove before he can brandish the blade. The spindly Lyon, gum furiously chewed, looks like Carberry has just pinched his turkey.

  187. 0036: 
    Eng 46-0 (Cook 26, Carberry 18)

    The drinks break has allowed the live text team to discuss cricketing Christmas gifts. It was a book on Tendulkar for me - pretty standard. I want to hear of the obscure, the random. Did you ask for an iPad and get a thigh pad? Maybe you got a stud from a boot once worn by Geoffrey Boycott? Siddle comes around the wicket for the first time to Carberry, who is in good order. Mitchell Johnson is loosening up once more.

  188.   
    Tom Fordyce, Chief sports writer at the Waca

    "A promising first hour for England, with the relentless MCG flies the biggest bother to England's batsmen so far. Each man has their own technique for dealing with this particular Aussie threat; Cook's one-handed cross-shaped waft, much like a Papal blessing, is absolutely textbook."

  189.  
    Text 81111

    Stew in Cheshire: Cue out of form England batsmen to make a century when it doesn't matter and cement their place in the side for the next 18 months.

    Paul, Essex: No matter how bad England are today, it can't be as excruciating as the two hours of Downton Abbey I've suffered tonight.

  190.   
    Adam Mountford, BBC Test Match Special
    An inflatable Ashes urn

    The Ashes Urn has made its way to Australia. It's bigger than I thought it was?

  191.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "That's one of England's better hours in the series, they've both been positive, Cook and Carberry, there's been one chance, a very difficult one from a Carberry edge, it would have been a superb catch. I like the way England have gone about their business, at 3-0 down you don't want to just hang on and look for some respectability."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  192. 0029: 
    DRINKS BREAK- Eng 44-0

    I wonder if Michael Clarke is regretting that toss decision? It looks like Nathan Lyon could be in for plenty of work today, he twirls away for another set. Around the wicket, tossed up, Carberry driving for no run. A maiden completes the first hour and takes us to drinks.

  193.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Subterranean Yorkie: Not many people know this. England have never lost a Test match with three Yorkshiremen in the team.

  194. 0025: 
    Eng 40-0 (Cook 25, Carberry 18)

    Peter Siddle switches ends as the sun pokes through for the first time. England's good start this morning has come from a greater show of attacking intent. These openers are looking to score and are being rewarded by a little luck, another slice of which sees Carberry get four through the slips off a flashed cut. That boundary sees the Hampshire man become the first England player to pass 200 runs in the series. That stat tells so many stories.

  195.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "It looks like it should be a relatively high scoring match but we've said that before on this tour. You don't expect it to turn on the first morning but Lyon has got a couple to grip."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  196. 0022: 
    Eng 33-0

    Shane Warne always says that if it seams, it will spin. Lyon, around the wicket to the lefties, is certainly getting some rip. To cover the spin, Carberry is walking across, exposing the leg peg, rocking back to scythe a short one through point for four.

  197.  
    Text 81111

    Matt, near Salisbury: Will never understand how people criticise selection five overs into a Test match. Give Bairstow and Monty a chance in this match first!

    Mark the pedantic mathematician in Chichester: Actually the odds of EITHER team winning 4 tosses in a row is 1 in 8. The chance of A PARTICULAR team winning 4 tosses in a row is 1 in 16.

    Bryan, Northampton: After the stress of cooking today, family now safely tucked up! The Ashes boxing day Test, as followed on TMS, with a glass of rioja, Aggers and Henry in their pomp, myself in my new, lucky gorilla onesie, looking forward to captain Cook to put up and give some back, magic radio.

  198. 0019: 
    APPEAL - NOT OUT- Eng 28-0

    Harris v Cook again, the irresistible force against the (trying to be) immovable object. Cook showing signs of being in trouble for the first time. Hit on the front dog (that's for you, Gary) for a half-appeal, then an inside edge followed by a loose drive. Harris, the Scrooge, has bowled five maidens out of six this morning.

  199.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Andrew Morris: Re flies: It's an Aussie phenomenon; they're attracted to white in particular. Can't stop them, but explains the corks on hats!

    Andrew Murphy: There's a difference right there! that's the first catch I've seen Australia drop all summer whereas England have dropped plenty!

  200. 0015: 
    Eng 28-0 (Cook 21, Carberry 6)

    Alastair Cook said he wasn't disappointed to be batting, and I can see his point. Even if the ball does move around (which it hasn't really done yet), England batsmen are far more used to these conditions than the pace and bounce we have seen elsewhere. Now then, only nine overs in and we have some spin. Oooohhhh, there's some turn, Nathan Lyon ripping an offie past Carberry. Have England got an off-spinner?

  201.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "It seemed like a good toss to lose, there was a lot of cloud when they tossed up but it's only just offered fractionally, nor is there a great deal of pace in the pitch. Cook in particular has looked pretty sharp."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  202. 0012: 
    Eng 28-0 (9 overs)

    Gary my man, the front dog is another term for the front foot. "Get on the front dog". Please feel free to shout up with other queries on cricketing terms. Ryan Harris and Alastair Cook could make a game of Christmas Monopoly last until Easter. Harris is exploring the off stump, Cook is intent on getting far forward to push back a maiden.

  203.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Gary Edwards: What's a front dog?

  204. 0007: 
    Eng 28-0 (Cook 21, Carberry 6)

    What's going on here? One of the staircases in the stand has been covered by an inflatable slide that runs from the concourse to behind the advertising boards. If a kid comes down that too quickly they will end up at at first slip. I bet it's not long before they are using those to get batsmen to the crease in T20s. Carberry, after his let-off, drives Siddle straight for four. England, like the atmosphere, are building.

  205.   
    Tom Fordyce, Chief sports writer at the MCG

    "If the MCG is a sporting cathedral, it's a utilitarian one - four great ringed tiers stretching in uniform fashion around the stands. Aesthetically pleasing it may not be, but its vast size makes it the most intimidating arena in Aussie cricket."

  206. 0004: 
    DROPPED CATCH- Eng 24-0
    Australia drop Carberry

    Ooohhh, a Christmas present for Carberry, who is put down in the slips. Harris is doing what Harris does, generating lively pace on and around off stump. Carberry is drawn in, getting a thick edge in between second and third, with Steven Smith diving to his right, grassing the chance at full stretch. Definite chance.

  207.   
    Michael Vaughan, Ex-England captain on BBC Test Match Special

    "A good start from the England skipper, he's played nicely, got his feet going in sync he looks in good rhythm. In Adelaide I felt he was so far back on his stumps."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  208. 2359: 
    Eng 23-0 (Cook 20, Carberry 2)

    Dare I say that Johnson looked a touch out of sorts this morning? He's pulled from the attack after only two overs, replaced by the nagging Peter Siddle. An inside edge to fine leg gets Carberry off the mark, then Cook continues his solid start with a cover-driven three. So far, so Christmassy for England.

  209.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Ando at the MCG: The first ball...

    The MCG
  210. 2355: 
    Eng 18-0 (Cook 17, Carberry 0)

    Zip from Harris, some bite as the ball hits the seam. Looking to leave, Cook gets an under edge that bounces before the slips and skips for another boundary. The gloom looks to be lifting, the white clouds are bright in the sky and the straw-coloured pitch is shimmering. What's the deal with all the flies? The back of umpire Aleem Dar's shirt is covered.

  211.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    Patrick in Kent (a fellow ginger): With Bairstow, Stokes, Bell, Rogers and Bailey all playing today, this is possibly the highest concentration of red headed players in a Test match.

  212. 2350: 
    Eng 13-0 (4 overs)

    If facing Johnson's 90mph thunderbolts wasn't enough to worry about, Alastair Cook is also dealing with a family of flies that are having breakfast on his back and buzzing around his eyes. Johnson stays full, not much happening with the cherry, Cook driving square for another boundary when Mitch overpitches.

  213.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Liam Quinn: England's weakness is from 1-5. Every change has been to 6-11. Madness.

    Thomas Durkin: Hopefully England won't lose a wicket until after midnight, then my Christmas Day will have been a good one.

    Thomas Rimer: Actually the odds of either side winning 4 tosses in a row are 15-1. It a one in 16 chance, which makes it 15-1.

  214. 2346: 
    Eng 9-0 (Cook 8, Carberry 0)

    The MCG is a huge, hulking, bowl, a continuous three-tiered stand that runs right around the circumference of the boundary. It's hugely impressive, a cricketing cathedral. Harris is pacey, high 80s, but still without the movement of Johnson. Carberry is sliding his bat away for a curtain-rail leave. A maiden.

  215.   
    Jonathan Agnew, BBC Test Match Special

    "It feels heavy, there are dark clouds all around at the moment."

  216. 2342: 
    Eng 9-0

    It's the moustachioed Mitchell Johnson to share the new ball - he's getting some shape away from Cook as the speed gun already cranks over 90mph. Too full, a clip through the leg side, a drive on the off, a couple of twos. Too short, a cut for four. Cook in good order, big applause inside the MCG. England are always well supported in these Christmas Tests - are you there? How's your Aussie Christmas been?

    England captain Alastair Cook at the MCG
  217.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Simon: The odds of Australia winning four tosses in a row is indeed 16-1, however the odds of them winning this one are exactly 50/50 as it is entirely independent of the three previous tosses. It's a common statistical misunderstanding to attempt to connect unconnected events.

    I can't tell if I'm being admonished or not...

  218. 2338: 
    Eng 1-0

    Movement? Not really, not yet. England are away with a leg bye off Cook's front dog, then Carberry is leaving as the ball is angled across him. It's windy, the flags over the big screen are fluttering with gusto. It's a bit murky, don't be surprised if we get more wet stuff.

  219.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "Prior's form has been so ordinary, you cant keep picking someone if he scores so few runs and keeps poorly. It's a great opportunity for Bairstow, I don't think anyone pretends he's the second best wicketkeeper in the country but if he gets some runs and keeps OK this could be the start of something for him."

    Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

  220. 2334: 

    The Aussies bounce to the middle, England leftie openers Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry stride behind. Ryan Harris has the ball. We expect some nibble. Three slips, a gully, short leg. Play.

  221. 2331: 

    We've had rain, but we'll start on time. The perfect playing surface has been cleared, the umpires are putting the bails on top of the stumps. There's relaxed Aussieness in the crowd - women chatting, babies passed around. This isn't just a cricket match, it's a social engagement, a Christmas tradition.

  222.  
    Text 81111

    Phil, Wrexham: Nice to see Johnny B finally gets his chance, would have liked to have seen one more change but hey-ho. C'mon England, give us a glimmer of hope for next summer!

    Chris, Rotherham: He does what he wants, he does what he wants. Kevin Pietersen, he does what he wants"......

  223. 2328: 

    Round one to Australia - they win the battle of the anthem singers. The Aussies lock arms for Advance Australia Fair. Santa has not delivered any razorblades. There's still plenty of awful facial hair. Mitchell Johnson looks like he's balancing a slug on his top lip.

    Here are the teams in full:

    Australia: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.

    England: Alastair Cook (captain), Michael Carberry, Joe Root, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar, James Anderson.

  224.  
    Text 81111

    Paul, Aylesbury: Overcast conditions and a chance of swing? I assume the selectors have picked Graham Onions? Oh, hang on, he wasn't even in the squad. Sound thinking...

    Chris Worrall: It appears to be impossible to bat your way out of this England team.

  225. 2326: 
    The view from the Test Match Special commentary box

    God Save The Queen is belted out by England - Monty, winning his 50th cap, has a huge smile on his face. Alastair Cook, stern-faced, hands on hips, looks ready for a fight.

  226.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Mr Ben: Big call, be interesting to see how Bairstow handles the short ball.

    ZK Goh: What was the point of bringing Finn and Rankin?! The Ashes are lost - England should've shaken things up.

    Josh: Swann - rat and sinking ship comes to mind. Should have stuck it out and played one.

  227. 2324: 

    Having said that, there's some blue sky above the circular cricketing amphitheatre. They say you can experience four seasons in a day in Melbourne. I was there one Christmas and got hit by hailstones.

  228. 2323: 

    Then players are in the tunnel, waiting to emerge for the anthems. Two huge flags are being held on the outfield. The 100,000 capacity MCG is far from full, but there's word that 90,000 might be in later. It looks a bowling morning.

  229.  
    Email tms@bbc.co.uk

    From Richard: Saddest news of all is Kallis preparing to exit Test match cricket! What a pioneer for cricket, unbelievable talent. Would take him above Tendulkar without any hesitation, the man can do it all. Will be sorely missed by all not very often someone of his pedigree comes along!

  230.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "I don't think they've managed KP well. His batting at times can be outrageously good, there are times he is up there with the absolute best but then he does something so daft. When he says that's the way I play that's what gets me. We want you to be a bit more positive and expansive, whatever, but somewhere in the middle is a balance."

  231.  
    Join the debate at #bbccricket

    Richard Parfitt: Top 6 remains the same again while bowlers change again after three batting collapses

    Ollie Hayward: Yup sums England up. Replace Prior with a guy who's barely got a run in international cricket.

    James Bamford: Right come on England. Stop messing about and play some proper cricket otherwise I'm putting the DVD from 2010 on!

  232. 2317:  
    BBC Radio Test Match Special

    Has Santa brought you a shiny new tablet? Or maybe a new phone? Want to see what it can do?

    Try out the BBC Sport app, where you can not only read this informative and entertaining live text, but also listen to live commentary, which is on both Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra. Both of those can also be found on digital TVs and online.

    Download the BBC Sport app.

  233.  
    Text 81111

    Aaron from London: Do they have double sided coins in Australia? When will we win another toss?

  234. 2314: 

    Former England spinner Graeme Swann: "Everyone assumes there must be rifts and people throwing punches at each other but that's not the case and they should get back to supporting the England team.

    "I spoke to Kev, I assured him there was nothing about him, the guys know who grinds my gears in world cricket."

  235. 2312: 

    So, what to make of all that? Have England picked the right team? What do you think about the retirement of Graeme Swann? Or that of South Africa's Jacques Kallis, who is set to quit Test cricket.

    Get in touch on this Christmas night by texting 81111, tweeting using the hashtag #bbccricket, or emailing tms@bbc.co.uk.

    If none of that floats your boat, just wish the live text team a Merry Christmas. The mince pies are already out here.

  236.   
    Vic Marks, Ex-England spinner on BBC Test Match Special

    "The Australians must be cock-a-hoop. They targeted Swann and, not only have they knocked him out of the team, but out of his career. I thought Swann broke the record for retiring one day and lamenting the state of the modern game the next day!"

  237. 2313: 

    Australia captain Michael Clarke: "It's more about the wicket - I feel a bit of moisture and, with the overhead conditions, I think it's going to swing around a bit.

    "The hunger is definitely there, we're currently ranked fifth in the world and we've won three Tests in 12 months, neither of which is good enough for an Australian cricket team."

  238. 2310: 

    By my reckoning, the chances of winning four tosses in a row are 1 in 16. Is that right?

  239. 2309: 

    England captain Alastair Cook: "We would have batted, it looks like a very good wicket. You have to get through that first couple of hours, but when this cloud burns off it will turn into a good day to bat.

    "It's always hard to be 3-0 down but I can credit the lads for the way we've stuck together and we've got another opportunity to play some good cricket.

    "We've taken Matt Prior out of the firing line. Matty is only 31, he's a world-class player and he's got a lot of cricket left in him."

  240.   
    Tom Fordyce, Chief sports writer in Melbourne

    "Grey overhead at the MCG, with the briefest of showers slipping over Melbourne as the thousands of baggy green revivalists stream towards this famous old ground. In a sport-obsessed city blessed with big events, this is the granddaddy of them all. And when Boxing Day comes around with an England team on its knees and Australia rampantly ascendent, the hungover faithful arrive at the nation's cathedral of sport with loud voices and wide smiles."

  241. 2307: 

    Australia, by the way, are unchanged. We'll confirm those line-ups shortly. The first thing in my mind? England won the toss on a very similar day to this three years ago. Australia were bowled out for 98.

  242.   
    Geoffrey Boycott, Ex-England batsman on BBC Test Match Special

    "I'd have liked to bowl this morning, it might be one of these mornings where Anderson swung the ball. But, Australia know the problem for England is in the batting."

  243. 2302: 
    AUSTRALIA WIN THE TOSS AND FIELD

    You couldn't make it up, Australia have won a fourth successive toss. Even more amazing are the words that come from Michael Clarke's mouth. "I can't believe I'm saying this but we're gonna have a bowl". Clarke actually said he wouldn't have minded losing the flick, while Alastair Cook says it will do a bit early on. He's spot on.

  244. 2301: 
    TEAM NEWS

    Confirmed, Matt Prior is dropped, Jonny Bairstow comes in. Stuart Broad is fit. Here comes the toss....

  245. 2259: 

    But, as of now, Swann is the past, day one of the fourth Test in Melbourne is the future.

    His place looks set to be taken by Monty Panesar, while the sight of Matt Prior throwing catches for Jonny Bairstow tells us that there will be a change behind the stumps.

    We'll get that confirmed at the toss shortly. It has been raining, though...

  246. 2258: 
    GOODBYE GRAEME

    Has there ever been a more controversial retirement than that of Graeme Swann?

    He's taken stick for retiring mid-series (though there are suspicions that he may been dropped anyway) and caused some confusion by saying that certain current players are "up their own backsides".

    Swann has since assured us that he was not referring to anyone in the current England side, but the fallout has been just one more part of an England tour than began as juggernaut and is currently resembling a scooter.

    Still, whether you think Swann was right to call time or not, it's hard to argue with his achievements. 255 wickets in 60 Tests - the leading wicket-taker in the world in the time he played. Not bad for a fella who didn't play until he was 29.

    Graeme Swann
  247. 2256: 

    England, the holders, have been ambushed down under.

    The batsmen have been blown away, the bowlers have been battered all around Australia.

    They have lost Jonathan Trott to a stress-related illness and the form of dependable bankers like Matt Prior and James Anderson has been lacking to such an extent that Prior is looking likely to lose his place in Melbourne.

    Stuart Broad is a big injury doubt and there's one more thing to have gone against them...

  248. 2254: 

    A Merry Cricketing Christmas to you as we embark on the fourth part of our five-legged Ashes drama.

    Australia regained the urn in straight sets just over a week ago in Perth, but, that is really only half the story.

    Australia celebrate
  249. 2252: 

    Or at least, that's how I imagine Alastair Cook's letter to Santa Claus might have looked.

    Will he get his wish? We'll find out over the next five days.

    Turkey on the beach, shrimps on the barbie, cricket on Boxing Day - images of an Australian Christmas.

    In the most iconic of cricketing fixtures, England are battling to avoid an Ashes whitewash.

  250. 2250: 

    Dear Santa,

    I've been good this year, but not as good as I usually am (my average is down 14 runs). I've won the Ashes and, even though that mean Clarke fella has taken them from me, I think I deserve lots of presents this Christmas, especially as it's also my birthday.

    Swanny has taken his ball and gone home, Stuart has a bad foot and Kevin, Jimmy and Matt haven't been playing nice. It could be tough if you can't help out.

    So, this Christmas (if you could come a day later it would be even better), I'd love a new spinner, a fit Broady, lots of runs from my top order (especially me) and some from help from my mates.

    Please come Santa, I can't bear another Christmas nightmare like the 5-0 of 2006-07.

    Your pal,

    Alastair (aged 29 and one day)

    PS. Please, please, please, please let me win the toss.

Live Scores - Australia v England

 

  • Australia beat England by 8 wickets
  • Australia: 204 & 231-2 (51.5 overs)
  • England: 255 & 179 (61.0 overs)
  • Venue: Melbourne

Australia 2nd Innings

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Rogers c Bairstow b Panesar 116
Warner c Bairstow b Stokes 25
Watson not out 83
Clarke not out 6
Extras 1nb 1
Total for 2 231

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