Perth: In a similarly lopsided Ashes contest at the WACA Ground nearly 20 years ago, Graham Thorpe dropped Steve Waugh at slip then compounded his error by booting the ball past cover for two. This time England experienced similar extremes of dejection, their hopes of retaining the Urn evaporating under the heat of relentless Australian pressure and a scorching Perth sun.
The tourists’ last realistic hopes of keeping the Ashes alive had revolved around a strong batting display from the reasonable overnight platform of 4 for 180. What happened instead was the surrender of 6 for 61 to Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle, a slide made worse by the Johnson toe-crusher that not only pinned Stuart Broad lbw but sent him to hospital, ruling him out of bowling for the rest of the game.
Lacking his best paceman of the tour, Alastair Cook was largely powerless to stop David Warner careering away to another brazen century, while Chris Rogers contributed his own tidy half-century in a stand of 157. Chances went down in a manner predictable for a team so downtrodden, Matt Prior enduring a horrific afternoon with the gloves. At the start of the day England hoped for a contest. Now they wait wearily for another declaration from Michael Clarke.
Ian Bell and Ben Stokes had resumed with high hopes of pushing towards Australia’s first innings total, but early swing for Harris with the old ball indicated this would not be an easy task. Running a series of outswingers wide of Bell’s off stump, Harris twice tried to pin the batsman lbw with a ball moving back the other way.
The first was glanced to the fine leg fence but the second struck Bell in line. Marais Erasmus declined the appeal, but Clarke’s review showed the ball would have struck enough of middle stump to overrule the decision. Australia celebrated raucously, Harris again claiming a critical breakthrough.
Stokes looked solid enough but Johnson’s pace provided a different challenge – one ball to Prior hit one of the significant cracks and veered towards first slip. Taking a single after the ball eluded Brad Haddin, Stokes soon offered a distracted waft outside off stump which he edged behind.
Siddle relieved Johnson as the second new ball neared, and a limp attempt at a pull shot by Prior reaped a thin edge behind. With Prior went England’s last realistic hope of reducing the deficit sufficiently to stay in the match, given the poor returns by their tail so far.
Clarke called for a fresh projectile once 80 overs had been bowled, and though Tim Bresnan leaned into three cover driven boundaries from a first exploratory over by Shane Watson, Broad had his toe crushed in front of middle stump by a 144kph yorker from Johnson in the next. Bresnan touched Harris behind while trying to leave another away curler, and when James Anderson popped up a catch to short leg, Australia had completed another dominant session in the field.
Opening up after lunch, Warner and Rogers were opposed by Anderson and Bresnan but not Broad, who gingerly attempted to bowl in the nets then went to hospital for scans on his foot. In the absence of their most potent paceman, England looked flat, and were unable to grasp the chances that came their way.
Warner was intent on destruction, but when, on 13, he sallied forth to drive Graeme Swann and missed, Prior was unable to glove the ball let alone complete the stumping. Prior missed a sharper stumping chance when Warner had 89. The reprieves allowed Warner to go on his merry way, hitting over fielders as well as between them to build the lead.
Rogers was more circumspect, but on 27 edged a fine delivery from Anderson that moved across him. It was Prior’s catch, but the missed earlier chance perhaps kept his feet frozen as the ball whirred behind, leaving Cook to make a late and unsuccessful attempt for the catch with a dive to his right. Australia’s openers relished in their opportunities, going on after tea until their stand had passed 150.
Eventually it was Rogers who let his guard down, cutting Bresnan in the air behind point, where Michael Carberry held a decent catch. Warner was unperturbed, rolling along to his second century of the series and delivering his trademark flying punch in celebration.
His exit, skying another attempt to hit Swann onto the WACA’s grass banks, coincided with a slackening of the scoring rate, and following a reserved stay from Clarke, whose slightly loose drive was perforated by a nip-backer from Stokes. Time remained for one more moment of English chagrin before the close – an lbw review against Shane Watson for a delivery pitching and hitting the batsman well outside leg stump. It really had been one of those days.
Australia 385 and 235 for 3 (Warner 112, Rogers 54) lead England 251 (Siddle 3-36, Harris 3-48) by 369 runs