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England's Dawid Malan in action in the second Ashes Test against Australia at Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia, December 19. — Reuters

MELBOURNE: England are “hurting” but determined to rise to the challenge and claw their way back into the Ashes series against Australia, batsman Dawid Malan said on Thursday.

After slumping by nine wickets in Brisbane and then by 275 runs in Adelaide, the visitors will enter the Melbourne Cricket Ground cauldron for the third Test on Sunday needing to win.

If they don’t, the five-Test series is over with Australia retaining the urn as holders.

The top-order batsman said morale in the England camp was “fine” after some honest discussions after Adela­ide, where a first-innings batting collapse coupled with poor bowling and fielding cost England the match.

“The boys are hurting after our performances in the last two games,” he told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday. “We realise we haven’t been good enough across all facets of the game.

“Speaking to all the guys, everyone is up for the challenge, everyone is really keen to face up to the Australians. The boys want to win, we want to win the series too.

“I know it’s a long way for us to come but we have to do well and play our best cricket in this Test match to get ourselves back into the series.”

The odds are against them — the only instance of a team coming from 2-0 down to win the Ashes was Donald Bradman’s Australia way back in 1936-37.

Malan and captain Joe Root have been the only two English batsmen to excel, both hitting half-centuries in Brisbane and Adelaide, but unable to go on and make a big score.

Malan’s batting has provided some of the rare highlights for England with an innings of 82 in Brisbane and 80 in Adelaide, but the 34-year-old conceded even he had to be better.

“Myself and [Joe Root] have been in the position to score hundreds in two innings and haven’t been able to kick on which has probably cost us about a hundred runs as a team at least, and that gets us back in the game,” said the South African-born Malan, who has hit nine Test 50s but only converted one into a century. “Scoring 80’s good, scoring 180’s brilliant, so that’s the goal.”

With England’s openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed struggling for runs, there has been talk of bringing fresh blood in at the top of the order, most notably Zak Crawley.

“Zak’s a very talented player,” said Malan. “He’s a tall bloke who plays the short ball really well so there’s every chance that he’ll be really good here.”

Malan said he would even consider moving up the order to open himself, if asked.

He suggested that England’s travails against a high-quality attack was also down to a lack of Test experience on Australian pitches, with he and Root among the few to have played an away Ashes series before.

“We are almost learning on the job in Test matches because a lot of the guys haven’t played in Australia, so they are facing bowlers they’ve never faced before and getting used to the bounce out here,” he said.

“But everyone’s up for a challenge, everyone’s really keen to face up to the Australians. We do it in white ball cricket, we try and take them on, so hopefully we can get that mindset and not just go into our shells and try and survive.”

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