England top order succumbs to pace

Australia captain Steve Smith (extreme right) celebrating with team-mates after taking a catch to dismiss his England counterpart Joe Root on the fourth day of the third Ashes cricket Test in Perth. Only rain is likely to help the visitors rescue a d
Australia captain Steve Smith (right) celebrating with team-mates after taking a catch to dismiss his England counterpart Joe Root on the fourth day of the third Ashes cricket Test in Perth. Only rain is likely to help the visitors rescue a draw at the Waca Ground today.PHOTO: REUTERS

PERTH • Australia moved within six wickets of reclaiming the Ashes at the close of a rain-hit fourth day of the third Ashes cricket Test in Perth yesterday, with England still 127 runs short of making the hosts bat again.

The tourists were 132 for four when rain ended play an hour early at the Waca Ground, with Dawid Malan (28 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (14) tasked with an improbable rescue mission following their defiant 237-run stand in the first innings.

Australia had declared at 662 for nine after lunch, their highest Ashes total at home, with captain Steve Smith finally dismissed for 239 from 399 balls.

Trailing 0-2, England must cobble a draw to keep the five-Test series alive but their hopes may rest mainly on the weather, with more showers forecast today.

Australia paceman Josh Hazlewood told local radio, after dismissing both of England's openers: "I think we would have loved one more (wicket) today but they've lost the wickets at the tail pretty quickly throughout the whole series."

Even with the chance of rain interruptions, it still looked bleak for the tourists, with cracks opening up on the pitch and variable bounce likely to play a part today.

One large fissure at the southern end of the wicket accounted for England No. 3 James Vince for 55 when a Mitchell Starc delivery jagged viciously back to rip out his off-stump.

He told reporters: "We've got to have belief that we can save the series and get over the line...

"But these two (Malan and Bairstow) especially showed in the first innings that they can occupy the crease for a long time, so hopefully they get off to a good start in the morning."

Vince had at least shown determined application, a quality sorely missed in his top-order colleagues.

Alastair Cook's miserable series continued as he threw away his wicket for 14, having managed only seven in the first innings of his 150th Test. Joe Root, his successor as captain, was equally culpable in his own 14, with opener Mark Stoneman out for three, as England staggered to 60 for three.

REUTERS

AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'England top order succumbs to pace'. Print Edition | Subscribe