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Scott Boland has catapulted himself into Test cricket history, claiming the equal-fastest five wicket haul on record in the Boxing Day Test.
With the match in the balance after an entertaining day two at the MCG, Boland almost single-handedly ripped through what was left of England's batting line-up in a memorable Test debut.
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In the span of just 19 balls, Boland claimed the wickets of opener Haseeb Hameed, night watchman Jack Leach, captain Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow, and tail ender Mark Wood.
He wasn't done there, improving to nigh-on unheard of figures of 6-5 from just 21 balls when he had Ollie Robinson caught at slip just a few minutes later.
He finished with figures of 6-7 from just four overs, a performance that would be a standout in T20 cricket, let alone in the Ashes.
The thrilling performance saw Australia win the Ashes before lunch on day three of the Boxing Day Test, winning by an innings and 14 runs in one of the most resounding Ashes results in recent memory.
Cricket fans were gobsmacked by the debut performance, with social media flooded with reactions to Boland's incredible figures.
Statistically, Boland's performance was the best debut performance by an Australian bowler on home soil since the late 1800s.
Only Harry Trott (8-43 in 1894-95) and Thomas Kendall (7-55 in 1876-77) could boast better figures on debut.
Test debutant Scott Boland, the fourth Indigenous person and second Indigenous man to wear the baggy green, wins the Mullagh Medal as the player of the match. The medal is named after Indigenous cricketer Johnny Mullagh. #Ashes
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) December 28, 2021
SCOTT BOLAND! Amazing story
32-year-old finally plays his first game for Australia
And it's only the best 5-fer debut in Test history
6 wickets for 7 runs off 4 overs (insane numbers)
In his home ground
🇦🇺 win #TheAshes #Ashes #cricket #MCG #BoxingDay pic.twitter.com/25nBQUAXgf
— Bob Harris (@bobharrisdotcom) December 28, 2021
Maiden 6 wicket-haul on debut for the Gulidjan Man. Scott Boland what a moment. Give him the Johnny Mullagh medal #Ashes
— Isa Guha (@isaguha) December 28, 2021
— News Cricket (@NewsCorpCricket) December 28, 2021
Scott Boland with a 17-ball five-wicket haul ... unreal
— Ali Martin (@Cricket_Ali) December 28, 2021
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) December 28, 2021
Fairytale of fairytales for Scott Boland. To secure a five-fer on debut at the MCG, in an Ashes, on the day Australia secure the series... absolutely tremendous. I hope it inspires many Indigenous kids out there to dream of playing Test cricket. #Ashes
— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) December 28, 2021
The Boland family celebrate Scott’s Man of the Match of the award. Humble and unassuming , Scott thanks the crowd for their support . His family are over the moon!! 6pm#7NewsMelb pic.twitter.com/vSNOxuaDjE
— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) December 28, 2021
Speaking soon after the victory, Boland said he was 'speechless'.
"As we came into it I thought we had a pretty good chance of winning, but I had no idea it would be over before midday," he said.
"Those are my best ever figures, I've had a couple of seven-fors in first class cricket but nothing that's happened that quickly.
"(The crowd) were amazing, they've supported me from day one, and going down there, I don't know, it just gives you a real big buzz."
Boland was awarded the Johnny Mullagh Medal for his efforts, with the medal named for the pioneering Indigenous cricketer.
Attention turns to fourth Test location as Australia retains Ashes
With Australia having brought the Boxing Day Test to a much earlier end than anyone would have predicted, officials now have a few more days to manage a growing cluster of Covid-19 cases in the English travelling party.
All players from both sides returned negative PCR tests before taking the field on day three of the Boxing Day Test, however a total of four cases have been recorded among the broader English party.
Rising coronavirus cases across Australia prompted speculation the final two Tests of the Ashes series could be held in Melbourne to avoid unneccesary travel, however this was ruled out by Cricket Australia on Monday evening.
Under Victoria's rules, anyone deemed a close non-household contact is free to exit isolation on returning a negative PCR test.
NSW and Tasmania currently do not allow the same freedoms for close contacts, forcing them to isolate for seven days - a potential concern for the fourth and fifth Tests.
While no players positive the number of infections in England camp has gone from 4 to 6.
3 support staff and 3 family members.
Massive bullet dodged so far but the walls are closing in.
And the tour about to head to greatest area of Covid risk @7NewsMelbourne @7Cricket
— Andrew McCormack (@_AMcCormack7) December 27, 2021
However, ahead of the fourth Test starting on January 5, there is now scope for discretion from NSW Health if the close contact is not a household member, after changes made a fortnight ago.
There is also some suggestion NSW could soon adopt the same negative-test approach as Victoria to ease the strain of health staff isolating on a system under pressure.
Cricket Australia is banking on having booked out a hotel in Sydney's Double Bay to safeguard players from both teams as NSW deals with more than 6000 new cases per day.
In Melbourne they occupy a wing of a hotel otherwise shared with the public.
The NSW Government showed their resolve last summer when able to keep the Sydney Test against India at the SCG in the midst of the Northern Beaches outbreak and calls for it to be moved.
All of that could be enough to keep the Ashes roadshow headed to NSW, amid pressure for it to stay in Victoria into the new year.
"We've shown that we've got great confidence in the protocols," Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said.
"In Sydney we've got an exclusive property for the playing group, we're flying there by charter.
"This is something that we're all having to live with."
If England's outbreak does extend to players, CA would face even bigger issues.
Like-for-like COVID-19 player substitutes are allowed, but if the virus was to wipe out several players it would be hard to see the third Test resuming.
England's red-ball players are not scheduled to play in February so Tests could theoretically be pushed back, but that would require an extended stay and more quarantine.
Abandoning part of the Ashes would represent a significant financial blow to CA, given it is their marquee series in the four-year Test cycle.
However cricket's biggest Australian audience in seven years, with 1.84 million tuning in on Boxing Day, shows a thirst for the series still remains, even if Australia do retain the Ashes by going 3-0 in Melbourne.
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