Can the Three Lions’ middle-order continue to fight back?
Where: The WACA, Perth
When: 02.30 (GMT)
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On the surface, England’s position at the end of the second day of the third and potentially deciding Test match, is not that bad.
Trailing by 205 and still with four wickets in hand and the experienced Ian Bell at the crease, there is reason for England to have hope, especially after the position they have found themselves in after two days in the previous games.
However, the manner in which they elected to bat, or were forced to bat, depending on your view on the second day, that was the big story.
Michael Clarke again answered any critics still surfacing regrading his captaincy after he changed his bowlers around well in the soaring temperatures so as to never let England get away in the context in the game.
While England’s chief tormentor Mitchell Johnson has not taken a wicket in close to 40 overs, his menacing pace again did not allow the England top-order to simply get in behind the ball and see him off.
Every delivery was bowled with intent and kept Alastair Cook and company on their toes, bringing about their downfall at the other end.
England’s attitude with the bat drew the most ire from pundits and fans alike on day two, with their negative attitude making it easier for Clarke and the Australians to bowl to their selected game plans.
Cook and Michael Carberry gave their side their first half-century opening stand of the series so far, and the game took on a different complexion as the tourists looked like they would climb off the canvas of a 2-0 series deficit.
But when Carberry played-on to a Ryan Harris ball and Joe Root was out caught behind off Shane Watson, the first DRS controversy this series has seen, it took the wind out of the team’s sails.
England’s senior players needed to stand up this Test and with Cook and Kevin Pietersen at the crease the away side had the ideal duo to make a statement.
Instead the scoring rate ground to a half, shrinking from more than four an hover to just under 2.5, and the pressure created in the field by the home side led to Pietersen’s dismissal.
After seeing off a spell from Johnson, Pietersen, who earlier passed 8000 Test runs for his career becoming just the fifth Englishman to do so, was out to Peter Siddle for the 10th time, meekly pulling a ball to Johnson at mid-on.
And when Cook departed just 10 runs later, Australia had the two wickets that could send a statement to the English.
Ian Bell and Ben Stoakes ensured their side did not continue to lose wickets in bunches, another of their major problems this series, as they ground out an important 34-run stand to finish the day at 180-4.
The pitch is still playing well, and despite the Australia getting the ball to swing just enough at the end of day two, there is nothing stopping England from going close to matching Australia’s first innings.
If however, their batting woes of the summer to date continue to haunt them and their negative attitude in not looking for single to release pressure and add scoreboard pressure on Australia, they could face the indignity of losing the Ashes in straight sets.