Close: third Test, day three, Perth
Match score: England 81-5 and 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6-38) trail Australia 268 (Hussey 61, Haddin 53, Johnson 62; Anderson 3-61, Tremlett 3-63) and 309 (Hussey 116, Watson 95) by 31o runs with five wickets remaining
Session score: Australia 12-2, England 81-5 Australia win
Session in six words: Aussies rout sorry England once more
Food has been a feature of the day. “For a tall guy Steve Finn bowls a poor bouncer, it comes out like a blancmange”, said Geoff Lawson on commentary this morning. This afternoon Matthew Hayden was in the box, almost insufferable in his new role as the bastard lovechild of Jamie Oliver and Ian Chappell,“I love food, I love life actually. I love the celebration of food. I love Christmas because it is a festival of food and a festival of cricket.” Haydos’ two main subjects were cooking Xmas dinner and cooking England, which might amount to the same thing as they have played like Turkeys in Perth.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas here. Partly because it’s 35 degrees, and partly because there’s nothing festive about being thumped. And England have been thumped today, thumped as in outplayed. Not just Mitchell Johnson this time – Shane Watson and Mike Hussey were too good this morning, Johnson, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus just too tempting this evening.
England have played brainless cricket. The bowling lacked discipline in the first two sessions – too short too often – Andrew Strauss too keen to make his seamers switch plans while not using his spinner – Graeme Swann bowling nine overs in the innings.
It’s been worse with the bat, England in trouble from the moment Harris skidded a straight one into Alastair Cook’s pads in the seventh over. No one expected England to chase 391, even though South Africa chased 414 here two years ago, but to even get half way would require an improvement from the first innings – batsmen decisive in defence and attack and selective about what balls they played at. A close of play score of 81-5 tells you how that went.
The captain set the tone of confusion. Something about playing in Australia seems to cause Strauss’s brain to overheat more regularly than in other conditions, even before he went he had slashed wildly at a couple of wide ones from Johnson. His dismissal was more sedate if no less frustrating, pushing at a decent Johnson delivery that you fancy Mike Hussey would have left alone. Ricky Ponting took a homing missile at second slip.
Enter Kevin Pietersen, seemingly unsure how he was cast in this unfolding disaster. Off the mark with a pull, he went into his shell and had faced 23 balls for three before he groped inexplicably at Harris. A duck and now three – it was Pietersen’s worst aggregate match for England in games he had batted twice, the game after his highest Test score.
Jonathan Trott batted better for 31 but then fenced at another wide one from Johnson – the type of ball that England had left so well from him in Brisbane. Ponting parried that one to Haddin before leaving the field with an injured finger, but the damage had been done to England. Johnson could not find the swing of the first innings but looked almost as dangerous. Tough times ahead.
Collingwood’s departure from the final ball of the day was the final insult, edging to slip after a stay where it was difficult to tell whether he or James Anderson were the night-watchman. Collingwood’s last great contribution to English cricket may well be the catch to dismiss Ponting on the first day.
England have to pull themselves together quickly. They have gone from a tight, controlled unit to a rabble in the space of a few days. The truth is still somewhere in the middle – they cannot be as good as they were at Adelaide all the time, but they would hope never to be as bad as they have been here. Australia have had the better players at the crucial times. Johnson on day two, and Hussey and Watson today. For England, only Tremlett and Bell emerge with credit to this point. England threw Tremlett to the press this evening, a remarkable abdication of responsibility from Strauss and Andy Flower on a day when so much has gone wrong.
The great thing is that we have what we English slightly patronisingly wanted at the star of this game – a proper match here, and can now look forward to a proper end of the series in Melbourne and Sydney.
Sitting next to me the Editor noted the similarities to 2003, when South Africa and principally Graeme Smith had feasted on England in the first two Tests of the English summer, only for England to come back strong. That series finished 2-2. At this very moment England would probably snap your hand off for that.
Tea: third Test, day three, Perth
Match score: Australia 297-8 (Hussey 111*, Siddle 3*) and 268 (Hussey 61, Haddin 53, Johnson 62; Anderson 3-61, Tremlett 3-63) lead England 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6-38) by 378 runs
Session score: Australia 86-4 Australia win
Session in six words: Hussey goes on as Swann sulks
Graeme Swann won’t be filming a video diary tonight. He’s had a horrible day in Perth – emasculated by his captain, ineffective when he did get the ball, and then off-colour in the field.
Is this the day that Andrew Strauss loses his halo? Strauss is renowned for being more conservative than a 4pm watershed – but unflappable temperament and a winning team have helped to obscure questionable tactical decisions.
His treatment of Swann here has been curious, and most probably not to England’s advantage. Forget how ineffective Swann was in four overs last night and that (first-innings here apart) Mike Hussey has enjoyed batting against him, he has a record that demands use as an attacking option. And yet throughout a first session when England needed wickets and inspiration Swann stood and watched.
When he did get thrown the ball after lunch, behind the expensive Steve Finn, it was almost as a last resort. Swann glowered at Strauss, his subsequent performance inadvertently proving the captain right. A few overs later, Siddle stuck one to him at short extra-cover, and Swann grassed it. The supportive pats that have characterised England’s fielding were not forthcoming. Whatever the conditions, in a four-man attack England require each bowler to be able to function as defensive or attacking weapon, and that hasn’t happened here.
As so often this series, the hacks will be readying themselves for a Mike Hussey press conference tonight. His unbeaten 111 takes him to 512 runs in less than three Tests. He would be looking at many more but for some astonishingly poor shot selection from Mitchell Johnson and in particular Ryan Harris, who chose to take on the hook shot when Strauss had optimistically stationed three men back. Hussey has been chanceless at the other end – a lesson to Alastair Cook that you can never score too many runs. England kept going gamely – impressively motivated in the field despite a worsening situation.
Australia now lead by 378, and will hope that Johnson’s bowling does not mirror his batting in this second innings.
Lunch: third Test, day three, Perth
Match score: Australia 211-4 (Hussey 60*, Smith 16*) and 268 (Hussey 61, Haddin 53, Johnson 62; Anderson 3-61, Tremlett 3-63) lead England 187 (Bell 53, Strauss 52, Johnson 6-38) by 292 runs
Session score: Australia 92-1 Australia win
Session in six words: Watson and Hussey pile on runs
If Australia kicked England out of their own Ashes victory party yesterday, this morning they slammed the door. With Shane Watson an imposing head of security and Mike Hussey impassive in charge of the guestlist, England’s night looks over.
The defining image was Watson putting the under-age Steve Finn in a dumpster, England’s only relief when Chris Tremlett snuck in the back and got him fired.
England left with their ears ringing with a noisy volley from Steve Smith – batting with the skittishness of a man who’d had a few.
The end of session score reads 92-1, when England would have been looking to restrict Australia below a 100, capping the lead at 300. It is Australia’s to lose now.
England bowled too short, Finn again leaking runs, Swann curiously not given a bowl. If ever there was a time for England’s talisman to lift spirits, it was when Watson and Hussey were at their most impregnable in the first hour. Yes he looked innocuous last night, but he had got Hussey in the first innings with a beauty. Baffling.
The other shame was Watson – again a victim of the 90s when his uniquely brutal beauty was in full flow. An Ashes hundred still eludes him, but he had done his job.
The morning’s headlines had been dominated by the sledging row. It’s all a bit pathetic – Anderson, Pietersen and Johnson are hardly Lillee, Thomson and Botham. You can imagine the fisticuffs – KP clad in Adidas, Johnson struggling to get his arm high, Anderson tweeting. Cannon fodder for the tabloids this, although it was interesting to see The Australian newspaper lead with the failure of their columnist Ricky Ponting.