England suffered another top-order collapse in Perth as Australia closed in on a victory that will hand them the Ashes.
Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh’s heroics with the bat ensured the tourists would have to survive for over four sessions to draw the Test and keep the series alive.
Alastair Cook and Joe Root were unable to offer any resistance, however, and Australia had taken four wickets when the rain forced a premature finish to the day.
Smith, with a new top score already ticked off, and fellow centurion Marsh would have been hoping to extend their stunning 301-run partnership at the start of the day but the stand that lasted almost 80 overs was broken immediately by James Anderson.
Local hero Marsh, who scored his maiden international century during the previous day, was the man to go as England’s record wicket-taker found the much-needed breakthrough with an lbw dismissal. Australian skipper Smith departed three overs later, missing a straight ball from Anderson to go for an incredible 239.
The wickets continued to tumble and Mitchell Starc was run out in the next over after a horrible mix-up with wicketkeeper Tim Paine. Paine quickly put the incident behind him, however, scoring a fluent 49 and putting on 93 runs with Pat Cummins before Anderson claimed his third and fourth wicket of the match, dismissing Cummins and Nathan Lyon to finish with figures of 4-116 from 37.3 overs. His partner in crime, Stuart Broad, was wicket-less from his 35 overs.
Australia declared on 662-9 with a healthy lead of 251 and found an early breakthrough when Mark Stoneman tentatively pushed at a delivery from Josh Hazlewood and nicked off. Former captain Cook has endured a miserable tour so far and his troubles continued when Hazlewood claimed a superb one-handed caught-and-bowled.
You won’t find many players in world cricket who can keep this out…
The delivery of the series so far
James Vince could do nothing about this!
BT Sport 1 HD pic.twitter.com/ILG2zvV8lg
— The Ashes on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) December 17, 2017
England’s crisis deepened seven overs later as skipper Root was caught at slip by counterpart Smith, playing a loose drive off Lyon’s first ball of a new spell. James Vince was still going strong, however, and hit 12 boundaries on his way to a second half-century of the series.
The Hampshire batsman’s resistance came to an end in sensational style as he was bowled by a quite remarkable delivery from Starc that hit a crack in the pitch and diverted straight into off-stump. Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow, who both scored centuries in the first innings, ensured no further damage was done and England had moved to 132-4 when the rain came, meaning Australia need six more wickets on the final day to win back the Ashes.
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