The Ashes: Key Points from Day Three at the WACA

Freddie Wilde@@fwildecricketContributor IDecember 15, 2013

The Ashes: Key Points from Day Three at the WACA

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    Australia 235-3 (Warner 112) and 385 (Smith 103) lead England 251 (Cook 72) by 369 runs.

    Another terrible day for England in this calamitous Ashes series has seen Australia to the brink of regaining the urn from England. 

    Given a hasty declaration from Clarke tomorrow the series could be decided as soon as tomorrow. 

    Click "Begin Slideshow" to discover the key points from Day 3.

Letting Go

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    Alastair Cook’s grip on the urn has loosened every day in this series, and today, his fingers slipped just a a bit more, and we are perhaps just one day away from him letting go completely. England will need to bat for probably five consecutive sessions starting at about lunchtime tomorrow to save this Test match and maintain their loose grip on the urn for at least another fortnight.

Marking Time

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    It’s like a game of chess, once one side becomes so dominant, it’s simply a matter of time to play until the conclusion; they were the telling words of Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special as the shadows lengthened on Day 3 in Perth. Indeed, he is correct. While England could still save this Test with the bat on Days 4 and 5, for much of Day 3 England were simply marking time, going through the motions.

    It, of course, makes for frustrating watching for England fans, but once their innings had been quickly extinguished, the dream of victory died with it, and in the face of Australia’s dominance there is little England could do for the remainder if the day, especially with Stuart Broad off the field with an injury.

    England’s performance in the field was archetypal of a downtrodden, downhearted team. While it would of course be heartening to see more fight and energy, the circumstances for a group of players for whom almost nothing has gone right since Day 2 in Brisbane dictate that such fortitude is difficult to display. England are being beaten, battered and bruised, and when you’re on the floor, in the dust and the bully keeps kicking you, it’s almost impossible to get back up.

The Bully That Won't Stop Kicking

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    But what of the bully? What of their cold-hearted belligerence? In amongst the many diatribes that the England team will no doubt be subjected to in the coming days and weeks, the role of the Australians will most likely at best receive a sentence or two of acknowledgement, as if their brilliance is but a minor contributory factor to England’s struggles.

    It would be more accurate to instead look at Australia’s brilliance in this match and the series as the root cause of the situation we now find the series in. England have flaws: they have picked a poor squad, made errors, played bad shots, bowled poor spells and fielded terribly at times, but all of these flaws have been exposed and then perpetuated and made worse by the fact that Australia have played so well.

    On the morning of Day 3 it was essential that England got at least within touching distance of Australia’s first innings total to stand a chance of victory. They didn’t. They lost their final six wickets for 61 runs. There was poor shot selection, poor shot execution and disciplined, tight Australian bowling, most notably from Ryan Harris, each one of those factors exacerbated the other.

Our Beds Are Burning

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    When things start going badly in sport and in life, confidence drops, form drops, belief drops, inspiration drops and energy drops. Comebacks can happen when teams find something extra within themselves, or when extenuating circumstances breathe life into a flagging team, or individual brilliance turns a match around. But most of the time losses breed losses, and right now every England player struggling is struggling just a little bit more every day.

    Matt Prior had yet another horrible day, scoring just eight with the bat and missing two stumpings. James Anderson toiled again in the heat, while Tim Bresnan was expensive and unthreatening. Stokes too was profligate, but at least bowled Michael Clarke with a beautiful delivery late in the day—by that point though, hope was lost.

Warner's Ashes

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    It’s telling of the depth of Australia’s success that Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin or David Warner could fill the clichéd position of "Someones Ashes."

    Following his excellent 60 in the first innings which set the tone for Australia’s Test, Warner yet again resembled power-bully openers of the past as he flayed England’s bowlers around the WACA with disdain. As England’s fielding and bowling was archetypal of a losing team, Warner’s innings was of a winning team. He was not made to work particularly hard for his runs, and was let off by a missed stumping when on 13, but merely did what needed to be done and did so in his usual pugnacious and aggressive style.

    Indeed, comparing Warner to fellow left-handed bully-boy opener Matthew Hayden is intriguing. After 25 Tests, Warner has scored more runs, has a higher average and has as many hundreds as the great Australian. He’s struggled away from home but Warner is a match-winner in Australia.