15 December 2013

The Ashes, 3rd Test, day 3

The Ashes, 3rd Test, day 3, Perth

Australia won the toss and elected to bat and lead by 369 runs with 7 wickets in hand, 2 days play remaining.

AUS 1st innings: 385 all out from 103.3 overs.

Steven Smith 111*, David Warner 60, Brad Haddin 55, Mitchell Johnson 39.
Stuart Broad 3-100, James Anderson 2-60

ENG 1st innings: 251 all out after 88.0 overs

Alastair Cook 72, Michael Carberry 43
Ryan Harris 3-48, Peter Siddle 3-36, Mitchell Johnson 2-62

AUS 2nd innings:
3/253 from 70.0 overs

David Warner 112, Chris Rogers 54, Shane Watson 29*

We are so close to regaining the urn, so close to winning this Test, and so close for me personally to celebrate something I have continued to back and believe we could achieve. Despite all the lows and torrid times endured, I have supported this team through it all and it feels so damn good right now to feel this unity. Two more days of this Test remain though. Forget the previous performances for now as the next two days of Test cricket for Australia will be the most important we have seen for years.

After today's performance, we rolled England in the morning, securing a lead just over 150 runs and have now advanced it to 369 runs with 7 wickets in hand. We are in a dominant position and if we play our cards right tomorrow to systematically bring down the axe on what little confidence England have left (one bowler down), our bowlers should have enough to work with, hopefully backed by our fielding standards, which have been the ultimate difference between us and England. We took the day and we're in a position that needs to be owned. Come on Australia, we're right behind you boys!

Play: The English innings was wrapped up way quicker than I anticipated. Due to work commitments I had to settle for highlights, but I was keeping an eye on things on my mobile. In 20 overs we removed their final 6 wickets for just 71 runs. That's an elite performance to ensure a dominant hold on the match.

Danger man Ian Bell was at the crease with the rather animated all-rounder Ben Stokes. Fortunately, Ryan Harris was well on truly in good enough shape to give it his all today amongst his usual niggles.

He trapped Ian Bell LBW, despite the initial decision going in Bell's favour. Michael Clarke had a review up his sleeve and used it wisely. The result was a huge wicket and we then pushed hard for the final 5 wickets.

Peter Siddle's wicket of Kevin Pietersen yesterday was one of the key moments in the series thus far. It was massive and Siddle's celebration said it all. However, removing Ian Bell so early opened the gates for us to get in there and slaughter the English tail. There was some resistance though but not without some damage.

Mitchell Johnson has had a quiet Test with the ball, but this second innings could be a scary one for England. He has broken Graeme Smith's hand twice, as well as giving Jacques Kallis' some chin music. Today he added Stuart Broad to his list as he suffered a serious blow to his foot, which resulted in his dismissal, a plumb LBW.
Broad went for x-rays and it showed up "something" according to him, which means he is in doubt for the Boxing Day Test and will take no further part in England's bowling display. Mitch may have not been brutal with his wicket tally but he has possibly knocked England's best competitor in this series out of the contest. Huge loss for England and in many ways for both sets of supporters in this Ashes clash.

Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan showed some fight, but our pacemen were up for the battle. Shane Watson regained his maiden over knack and assisted in building up some well needed pressure to early in the day. The job was done and we had England in position to bat them out of the match.

What followed was our highest opening stand this series, boosted by a healthy lead. Chris Rogers was the anchor, David Warner the attacker and this resulted in a stand of 157 runs.

England though, once again, screwed up in the field, particularly Matt Prior. Prior's confidence is as good as shot. As I wrote last Test, every player goes through this patch but Prior's keeping is now being affected and it will take a lot to come back from this. His dismissal today was a sign how we were all over him like a fatal rash. An aggressive attempt to get free resulted in his wicket, and his chances to stump David Warner were manageable by his notable standards. It was just another hard day under the Perth sun after that.

David Warner brought up his second century of this Ashes series and his 5th Test century, his second in Perth where he now averages 78.80 with 2 centuries and 1 half-century and a total of 394 runs.

It was another admirable moment to see him leap in the air and celebrate that century, just showcasing what a true athlete he is and how mentally strong he is right now. To comeback after all the drama of this year, it's been nothing but sensational for our master blaster.

His innings was vital for us in terms of both time and strategy. We needed quick runs. Sure, we aren't under immense pressure, but against a team that is naturally defensive in tactic, we may need some time to work for those final 10 wickets, despite the WACA track cracking up immensely. Buck Rogers played with caution and focus, while Warner bashed what he could do secure the momentum for us. It provided a fast advancement on our lead but also sunk England's heads that little bit more. With Stuart Broad out of the mix it was even more painful.

Warner dealt in boundaries, hitting 17 fours (68 runs) and two sixes (12) runs during his innings of 112 runs. He took a particular liking to Graeme Swann, and even brought a shade of arrogance into his innings as he selectively worked his shots against what Swann could dish up. Too wide, he'd let it go and walk away seeming almost disgusted with what the English spinner was dishing out. Then when it was in the slot or somewhat a challenge, he'd dive right into it and deliver.

It was almost as if Adam Gilchrist's batting spirit of 2006/07 was alive and well with David Warner at the WACA.

Rogers brought his half-century up with a beautiful cover drive and deserved it. He threw away his wicket in the 1st innings having shown limited signs of discomfort. He did his job today and raised his bat as he left the ground, rightly so! I do believe he was rattled with that ball which crashed into his rib cage which he took like a solider. That would have been bloody sore, but he composed himself and stayed out there a bit longer before carving one to Michael Carberry. His job was done and I reckon he was mentally checked out after that delivery hit him.

Shane Watson has managed to see his innings through until stumps and with Watto out there we could easily hit the 400 run lead quite quickly tomorrow for day 4. You would think that passing 415 is a confidence point at the WACA (South Africa did it in 2008 against us) but tomorrow will be mind games galore.

Watto is currently partnered by Steven Smith, the centurion of the 1st innings, who may have played the biggest role in this match. What they do tomorrow will likely determine the pace of what is left in this game.

Earlier Michael Clarke had come on out to the middle in the 2nd innings of his 100th Test, but managed just 23 before being bowled. Scores of 24 and 23 is certainly not what a player of statistical obsession would look back on fondly, but it means nothing. This is about a Test win, an Ashes win in what just happens to be Clarkey's 100th Test.

Fortunately for us, the other boys have stood up and delivered on a rare occasion when Clarkey hasn't. This needed to happen and to see young guns David Warner and Steven Smith do so, with some fight from veterans Brad Haddin, Chris Rogers, and now Shane Watson, is just so inspiring.

We have the lead, we have the wickets, we have the time, and we have the bowlers. It's all in our favour right now and with the winning edge - something we can relate to at long last - these final passages of play need to be claimed stand as the final challenge to regain the urn. As I always write, still lots of cricket to be played, but one would have to feel this is the best chance possible for us to come out victorious, get the urn back...and for life just to make sense once again.

The boys need to just stay disciplined and united, but they will be hungry for this - hungrier than any die hard Baggy Green solider like myself for this win. Lets take it session by session.

Goal one tomorrow will certainly be to find those 31 runs to hit the 400 run lead mark. When the declaration comes, that is up to Michael Clarke.


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