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Ashes: Five Talking Points From the Perth Test

AFP | Updated: December 19, 2017, 8:11 AM IST
Ashes: Five Talking Points From the Perth Test

Australia's Josh Hazlewood and England's Moeen Ali look at captain Steve Smith as he claims a catch, which was not given out, during the fifth day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

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Australia regained the Ashes with a thumping innings victory over England in Perth on Monday earning the hosts an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

With two Tests still to play, talk of a dreaded whitewash is now growing. So where did it all go wrong for the tourists?

AFP Sport highlights five talking points from the series so far:

Slow, not steady

It is not often a Test side is blessed with three fearsome fast bowlers capable of slinging 90mph (145kph) bouncers at batsmen's throats, as Australia are with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

"We wanted the big three on the park to do what they've done the last three Test matches," said a victorious captain Steve Smith.

But England arrived with precisely zero genuine quicks in their squad. They have managed to bowl out the hosts just twice in three Tests.

Questions will be asked of the decision to omit the pacey Mark Wood, while calls are mounting for England to start looking beyond medium-pace swing and seam artists who have looked horribly exposed on Australian pitches.

Captain vs. Captain


For England skipper Joe Root, the series so far has been one to forget. His average of 29.33 is the worst in the team, except for his worryingly out-of-form predecessor Alastair Cook. Root's decision to send Australia in to bat in Adelaide also raised eyebrows.

Meanwhile Steve Smith -- already the world's best batsman -- can add victorious Ashes captain to his growing CV after his match-winning double century in Perth. His unbeaten 141 in the first Test also swung the balance of that match.

Such has been Smith's dominance, teammate Mitchell Marsh even expressed sympathy for Root: "I have felt what it's like, captained against him (Smith) ... You come up with all these plans and none of them seem to work. He is a special player."

'Tourists masquerading as cricketers'


English alcohol-related antics off the field have hardly helped focus players' minds on the cricket, stretching back to Ben Stokes' arrest and ban following an incident outside a Bristol bar in September.

Jonny Bairstow's ill-conceived "headbutt" greeting to Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar left head coach Trevor Bayliss fuming, and resulted in a team curfew -- which expired just in time for Ben Duckett to tip a drink over England's all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson on another outing to the same pub.

"Tourists masquerading as cricketers" was the damning verdict of the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Tail hasn't wagged

Lower-order batting collapses are a time-honoured England tradition, albeit one they seemed to have shrugged off in recent years. But rarely have the tourists thrown away dominant positions with such aplomb as here.

In the first innings of the series in Brisbane, England were coasting along at 246-4, before collapsing to 302 all out, going on to lose by 10 wickets.

In Perth, where century-makers Malan and Bairstow had Australia on the ropes at 368-4, an even more dramatic implosion saw the visitors somehow contrive to turn a dominant position into an innings loss. How much difference would Stokes' assertive hitting have made to the "engine room" of England's batting lineup?

The weather

Poor old England. Having carefully arranged to lose only four wickets prior to the arrival of admittedly unseasonal rainfall in Perth Sunday, the tourists were looking forward to a nice relaxing final day in the pavilion while groundstaff messed around with leaf-blowers in the middle and the Barmy Army performed rain dances in the stands.

Unfortunately the storm clouds ruined their best-laid plans by fading away, leaving the tourists' batting lineup to do the same.
First Published: December 19, 2017, 7:50 AM IST
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