|| AFP ||
Australia ripped through England's flimsy batting to leave the visitors reeling on 128 for six at tea on day one of the third Ashes Test Sunday, with the key wickets of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler falling in the second session.
At the break in Melbourne, Jonny Bairstow was unbeaten on 21 with Buttler out for three on the stroke of tea in a Test that England must win after losing heavily in Brisbane and Adelaide.
The ever-dangerous Pat Cummins, the Australia skipper, has 3-31.
England resumed after lunch on 61 for three having lost the toss and been put into bat, with both openers again out cheaply and their hopes resting with skipper Root in front of some 70,000 fans at the MCG.
He brought up his 53rd Test half-century in his 112th match, but once more failed to convert it into a maiden ton in Australia after a poor shot on 50 to Mitchell Starc.
Star all-rounder Stokes hasn't had a big impact in the series so far but looked in the mood, hitting a six off Nathan Lyon to bring up his team's 100.
But after working hard for 25, he succumbed to pressure from Cameron Green, playing a cut shot straight to Lyon at point.
That brought Buttler to the crease, but he only lasted 11 balls, hitting Lyon straight to debutant Scott Boland at midwicket.
After big defeats in the first two Tests, victory for England is essential to keep the series alive, with Australia only needing a draw to retain the urn as holders.
With that in mind, the visitors wielded the axe with Zak Crawley in for struggling opener Rory Burns and Bairstow replacing Ollie Pope at number six.
Speedster Mark Wood was recalled after being rested in Adelaide, as was off-spinner Jack Leach, with Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad overlooked.
Wearing black armbands to mourn former England captain Ray Illingworth, who died aged 89, Crawley confidently drove Cummins for three in his opening over.
But Cummins, back after missing the second Adelaide Test because he was in Covid isolation, struck three balls later with Haseeb Hameed's torrid tour continuing, out for a duck after nicking to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
Crawley earned his first Test chance since March due to Burns' poor form, but he failed to grab it, finding an outside edge to a rising Cummins ball that Green superbly caught at gully.
His dismissal for 12 left England in trouble at 13 for two with Dawid Malan and Root, the only two English batsmen to pass 50 this series, again forced to come to the rescue.
A cautious Malan took 18 balls to get off the mark as he weathered the early storm, but disaster struck just before lunch when he got an edge off Cummins that carried to David Warner at slip.
Root played positively to move past South Africa's Graeme Smith (1,656 in 2008) and into third place for the most runs scored in a calendar year.
But just as he looked set he offered a lazy stroke to Starc that took a nick and was taken by Carey, with the England captain livid as he trudged off.