England dominate Boxing Day Test but refuse to believe job is complete

James Anderson led by shining example as England's bowlers set up a perfect Boxing Day in pursuit of the Ashes at the MCG.

Anderson, who had been a doubt for this fourth Test because of a sore side, was faultless in exploiting ideal seam-and-swing conditions for 16 overs as he and Chris Tremlett shared eight wickets, and Yorkshire's Tim Bresnan snapped up two, to bowl a hapless Australia out for a meagre 98.

After Alastair Cook (80no) and Andrew Strauss (64no) had then taken advantage of an uncanny evaporation of cloud cover to reply with an unbroken opening stand of 157 after tea, Anderson reflected on England's wonderful start to the Christmas Test.

They needed to demonstrate the resilience on which they pride themselves, after conceding their series lead with a 267-run defeat in little more than three days in Perth last week.

But as Anderson noted, to take such a stranglehold on proceedings so quickly against Australia is "unheard of" and has put England within mere competent consolidation from here on in their quest to retain the urn.

"We've been good at bouncing back strongly, so we didn't expect anything less – but to do it so emphatically probably wasn't on the cards," he said. "It's an amazing feeling."

Anderson (4-44) was very unlucky to go wicketless in an expert new-ball spell, having opener Shane Watson spilled twice – at second slip and gully – before he had scored.

But Tremlett (4-26) and Bresnan were soon in business – and Australia could never regain a foothold, already in trouble at lunch and then losing four wickets for 11 runs shortly afterwards.

A full house of dismissals came via catches behind the wicket, six into Matt Prior's gloves and the rest to gully or the slips – testament to England's accuracy as well as a telltale sign of lateral movement on a grassy pitch, after Strauss had won a very important toss.

The key for England, Anderson stressed, was that they did not squander their opportunity by chasing wickets.

"There's always a danger you'll get carried away when you're expected to get wickets," he said.

"But I thought we stuck at our task and kept the pressure on all day, asking questions.

"I thought we did it fantastically well. Even when we had them struggling with six down, we just kept on trying to create that extra level of pressure.

"I really thought it was brilliant bowling.

"Throughout the series, we've bowled really well – beat the bat a lot; we've had lbws turned down and created chances missed.

"Today was the day when all those bits of luck came together, and we got the nicks."

Anderson was spotted by one observer rubbing his side during his second spell. But he insisted he has had no discomfort from the minor injury suffered at the WACA, and made it clear he was always determined to finish the job he started for England this winter.

"It's fine – it was probably just an itch," he said.

"I did have a bit of stiffness, but I'd have to snap in half before I wouldn't play in either of these last two games."

Those two early drops did sow some doubts for Anderson – but not for long.

"I felt in pretty good rhythm, but when chances do go down you do wonder if it's going to be one of those days again," he admitted.

It was not, of course – and although England will not allow themselves to take a winning position for granted, it is glaringly obvious that their hosts have a huge amount of ground to make up if they are to keep the Ashes alive for the final Test in Sydney.

"To bowl Australia out for less than 100 and then be 150 for none at the end of play is just unheard of," Anderson added.

"We've had one good day, one great day – but there's still four days of hard work left."

Yorkshire's Bresnan had been called in for his first taste of Ashes cricket as England's management followed through with their threat of resting Steven Finn.

And Bresnan did not disappoint as he first snapped up the early wicket of opener Phil Hughes and then accounted for Australian dangerman Brad Haddin.

His final figures of 2-25 off 13 overs were testament to his display of controlled swing bowling as he took full advantage of conditions more akin to Headingley than Australia.

He will know, however, that there is a long way to go and if England are sensibly refusing to look too far ahead, the Australians can do little else but try to look on a distinctly faint bright side.

Their vice-captain Michael Clarke top-scored with just 20, and did not try to hide from the fact that his team had endured a nightmare first day.

"We certainly have no excuses; we played some poor shots today and didn't show enough discipline," he said. "As we've seen, when the sun came out it's a really nice wicket to bat on. We're all disappointed – the batters especially."

After Anderson had usurped the rested Steven Finn as the series' leading wicket-taker, Cook had taken his tally with the bat beyond even the prolific Michael Hussey to 575 and counting, and Strauss had become the 11th Englishman to top 6,000 Test runs, Clarke was also called upon to speak in defence of his beleaguered captain Ricky Ponting.

"Ricky has been a wonderful leader and an amazing player for a long time," he said.

"His record in international cricket speaks for itself.

"He's copped a fair bit of criticism of late – and no doubt he'd like to score more runs, as a lot of us would.

"But there's no doubt Ricky should be the captain of Australia and also the No 3 batsman for the team.

"Every player in the Australian dressing room supports him right now."