Australia close in on victory in Perth

  • @stephenbrenkley

England finished the third day of the Third Test staring at defeat. All went entirely according to plan for Australia who were as single-minded as England had been in Adelaide when they took a 1-0 lead in their quest for the Ashes.

The tourists finished on 81 for five still needing 310 to win and reach their target of 391 which would not only be the fifth highest fourth innings to secure victory in Test history but England’s largest by 59 runs. It was in the realms of the fanciful as the top five all lost their wickets.

Openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss had gone by the 10th over, Kevin Pietersen followed while Jonathan Trott and Paul Collingwood were out in the day’s last two overs, the latter to the final ball.

The day began with England requiring early wickets and Australia needing to defy them. With enviable diligence, Mike Hussey and Shane Watson kept England at bay, content for almost an hour merely to occupy the crease and take no chances. Once that job was done – and England by no means badly – they became more assertive.

Watson’s dismissal for 95, when the fourth wicket partnership was worth 113, put a fresh spring in English legs. But Hussey removed it soon enough and with increasing command made his second century of the Ashes, in doing so becoming the first man to make scores of half a century or more six consecutive Ashes innings.

By the time he was last man out for 116, caught at mid-wicket trying to hit his 16th four to give Chris Tremlett his first Test haul of five wickets in an innings, Australia had reached a total of 309. They made early inroads into England’s innings with the new ball.

Cook, back when he might have been forward, was lbw to Ryan Harris. It was a close decision but a correct one. Strauss received a lifting ball from Mitchell Johnson on off stump which he pushed to second slip. Pietersen, never settled, prodded at wide one going wider from Ben Hilfenhaus and was also caught at slip.

Just as Trott and Collingwood were preparing for the morrow both fell. Trott edged a fast ball from Johnson to second slip where Ponting spilled the chance and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin caught the rebound. There was just time for Australia’s day to be complete with Collingwood playing away from his body to be held at third slip.