England desperately needed to win the third test in Perth this week to have any chance of retaining the Ashes they have worked so hard to gain over the last 5 years -things could have started better after Cook lost the toss for the third consecutive time this series. England would have wanted to get first use of a pitch that by all accounts will quicken up over the next couple of days; instead he led his side into the field in temperatures pushing 40 degrees.
Australia set off scoring at over five runs an over for the first ten overs and looked in complete control, with wickets seemingly miles away – it was only a misjudged single from Rogers that gave England their early breakthrough. But England kept persevering with an aggressive field and a clear game-plan and they had their reward when Watson tried to drive Broad on the up and was superbly held by Swann in the slips. Clarke and Warner continued to bat aggressively and score quickly as the scoreboard rattle along to 100-2 after just 20 overs. Throughout this series Clarke has practiced what he’s preached – constantly trying, and succeeding, to dominate Graeme Swann, however on this occasion his aggression cost him his wicket. Looking to clip Swann’s second ball through mid-wicket, the ball gripped and turned a little allowing Clarke to spoon a catch to the tumbling Cook at short mid-wicket.
After Lunch England continued to show fight on a clearly flat pitch – Broad bowling a particularly hostile spell of short bowling. His reward was to come when Bailey top edged a fierce bouncer to Pietersen at long leg – for once it was Australia who were troubling to deal with the short ball! The first half of the day has been real ‘highlights cricket’ as runs and wickets tumbled at regular intervals, however as the afternoon wore on the game settled down and Haddin and Smith cashed in on some tired deliveries from the England attack.
England’s plan to Steve Smith appeared to be non-existent at times as a player who has so far failed to impress at number 5 tucked into his 2nd test century. Too often Broad and Stokes dropped short and allowed Smith to pull and hook with disdain and Tim Bresnan just looked short of fitness and form. For England’s sake, I hope Bresnan will return to full fitness because the man bowling yesterday was not test class – failing to move the ball while bowling under 80mph.
So… Australia have finished up on 326-6 after being 150-5 – England have let a massively opportunity slip. However, I still believe this game is alive, if England can take early wickets tomorrow and then use the pace of the pitch to their advantage in their first innings there is still a chance of a lead and still a chance of retaining the Ashes.