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England wilts in Perth heat

Warner ton powers Australia to overall lead of 369 runs on third day, with Broad’s injury adding to England’s misery

England wilts in Perth heat - Cricket News
David Warner smashed his second century of the series in 127 balls.
Under siege by a fierce attack. A batting surrender. A three-figure deficit. A bowler in hospital. An aggressive opener in the form of his life, a wicketkeeper in the worst form of his. 

However poor its tour so far has been, Sunday (December 15) was England’s worst day in every respect. The cricket on the middle day of the third Test moved along in sprightly fashion, but never to its benefit. Its endeavour could rarely be faulted, but it was one of those days cursed by a capricious god. Everything went wrong bar a box of jellyfish finding its way into the ice bath, with Matt Prior the figurehead of the bad luck movement after missing two stumpings and at least one catch. 

England’s last six wickets added 71 runs to its overnight score, the innings done at the stroke of lunch for a total of 251. Australias lead of 134 would have been difficult enough for England on a third-day WACA pitch with plenty of batting still in it, but difficult was relocated further toward impossible when Stuart Broad was taken to hospital before a ball had been bowled. Its best bowler of the series took no part in the day’s play, after the Mitchell Johnson yorker that had pinned him lbw proved to have smashed his foot in the process. 

Australia once again proved the point of contrast, this time notching an opening stand of 157 between Chris Rogers and David Warner. Rogers fell for 54, but Warner went on to smash his second century of this series, this time off 127 balls, with only the Adelaide declaration stopping him from having three in a row. Warner and Michael Clarke were out late in the day, but at 235 for 3, with a current lead of 369, Australia only has to play professional cricket through the next six sessions to win back the Ashes with two matches to spare. 

It all could have been so different had Prior’s miserable form with the bat not chosen to leak into his wicketkeeping. The job behind the stumps is desperately difficult in such extreme weather – for the third day in the row, the ground thermometers were reading well over 40 degrees. But Prior wasn’t exhausted by the 9th over, when Warner skipped down the pitch to Graeme Swann, was well beaten by sharp turn, and leapt for his crease with the desperation of a man who knew he was done, only to see Prior fumble the straightforward chance. 

Warner, on 13, would add 99 further runs. Rogers, meanwhile, had 26 when edged a ball from the hard-working James Anderson, only for Prior to stand still and watch it pass by. Alastair Cook at first slip threw a late right hand at it and at least saved four, but it was the ’keeper’s catch. Another Rogers shot on 31 may have involved a feather to Swann, but there was no appeal when Prior shelled the ball, then in the 39th over, with Warner on 89, another stumping went begging when a Swann ball kept low and fired between Prior’s legs for four byes. 

Rogers’s dismissal was some relief, again cutting to Michael Carberry at point, this time from Tim Bresnan. But Prior’s day was contagious. Misfields began to creep in, then Ian Bell missed a sharp chance from Watson at short leg. In the meantime, Warner was showing his full array of strokes. He was especially harsh on the cut against Swann’s short balls, while twice clouting the spinner into the midwicket crowd. His pull shots to the pace bowlers were superb, and there was one disdainfully lofted smash down the ground from a Bresnan ball that shouldn’t have been full enough. Another cut from Swann raised Warner’s century, the opener leaping into the air in celebration of what has been the series of his true arrival in Test cricket. 

By the time he skied a Swann delivery to Ben Stokes for 112, the damage had been done. Stokes got some reward for a wholehearted bowling effort when a classic delivery nipped back off the seam to cruise through the gate and into Clarke’s middle stump. But with the skipper’s 23, Watson’s 29 not out, and the batting of Steve Smith and Brad Haddin to continue on Monday, there are a few runs in this side yet, and an imposing lead already in the bank. 

That lead had been set up by a fiercely disciplined bowling performance in the morning session. Resuming with six wickets in hand, England should have been aiming to double its 180, but much of that relied on Ian Bell. In the old days it would have had its luck, when a decent but almost innocuous lbw shout was turned down. With Bell stepping forward and almost outside the line of off stump, it only looked worth half a shout. But Australia reviewed, and found that Bell’s short stature had the Ryan Harris delivery hitting the top of middle stump. 

Johnson then began another hypnotic spell, sending bouncers over, yorkers into, and length balls through England's batsmen. One ball to Prior hit a crack and hovered about four feet sideways, conceding a bye on Brad Haddin’s dive. But the set-up worked perfectly, with Stokes having seen the full movement of the ball from the non-striker’s end, then finding himself facing the bowling. One bouncer later, he was pushing at the ball from the back foot to get a healthy edge for 18. 

Peter Siddle cramped Prior to make him under-edge a pull shot for 8, and despite Bresnan rifling a few fours, nothing was holding Australia back. Johnson curved a vicious ball into the boots of Broad, one that would have greater ramifications than the resulting lbw dismissal, before Bresnan nicked Harris while trying to leave, and James Anderson popped a fend to short leg to leave Swann 19 not out. 

On a day when England’s main achievement was to concede no extras by tea, there seems little hope for the remainder of this game or even this tour. Australia has lost a couple of sessions across the series – generally the first or second of the match – but barely a full day, let alone enough to influence the final outcome. As in the previous two Tests, it's down to awaiting a declaration from Australia, and seeing if England can this time bat through to save a match.



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