Sadly this is the last ever Ashes test at the WACA, with the new Optus stadium being built in Perth to take over as one of the frontline test stadiums. England’s record at the ground is absolutely shocking, and batting first they needed to reach a 300+ score in the first innings, with their only victory in 13 games coming after their only 300+ first innings score. But a huge chance for Australia to seal the ashes in what would be a very sentimental victory.
Starc opened up to Cook and Stoneman still finding that extra pace keeping it consistently over 90 MPH early on. Hazlewood bowled the second, finding early movement, catching Stoneman on the pads before being sent for the first runs of the game by Stoneman in a cover drive straight out of page 1 of the textbook. The third from Starc was similar to his bowling in the second innings, where he drifted down leg, and lost his line. Stoneman said thank you very much, flicking the ball off his legs, sending it for 13 alongside his partner Cook. This outfield is absolutely rapid, and was shown after an Alastair Cook pushed the ball through the covers with ease for four.
Cook then got absolutely done in the next over by Starc. He was caught on the pads, low down and right up against his stumps, no chance, and especially when you play around the ball like that. Head falling, bat around it. Out, simple as that. Not even 5 overs in and the England opener has let his side down. It is such a huge achievement to reach 150 tests, and he is the youngest to reach that mark, however it is a very nice round number to end up on, and if he doesn’t get runs in the second innings then it is just his name keeping him in the side. Since that double hundred vs the West Indies, he hasn’t reached 40 in a test match. My shout would be bumping Bairstow up the order like he was with the ODI team. He’s too good to play as cover for the tail.
Vince came in to the crease early on yet again, with England on 26-1. Hazlewood started the drop the ball in short with the game’s first proper bumper bouncing harmlessly off the glove, leaving Smith wishing he had someone in short. Not long afterwards Starc sent on Mason Crane, the 12th man with replacement bats for stoneman after another bouncer took out the handle of the England opener’s bat. It still took a few overs to put a short man in, in a decision which bemused me, for one.
The attack continued to bowl short to Stoneman, and across Vince, who faced 4 overs before deciding to nibble at one, sending it for four with another sumptuous cover drive. This looks a magnificent pitch to be batting on really with several fours in the first hour and a half as England surpassed 50 runs. This outfield is rapid. The rumours of the pitch being slow all seem a bit wrong. The ball is coming on beautifully, great pitch for batting. Vince continued to play his shots, while at the same time, restricting himself a lot, as well as Stoneman as the 50 partnership was brought up. Still absolutely no movement with the ball. Cummins still doing his thing, coming on for a few overs here and there, just without that real wicket threat.
Gary “the GOAT” Lyon. (Sigh) Came on to bowl to a huge cheer from the crowd, his first over was received by a couple of poorly timed sweep shots but no real harm done. In his next over, Stoneman personified this more positive England style by slog sweeping the ball over the top for four, with the ball absolutely flying to the boundary. A much tidier couple of overs followed with a couple of Maidens.
Just as I decided to write a tweet about how there hasn’t been that air around the batsman which makes you think a wicket is coming every other ball, as James Vince got out. Should I really bother describing it? In the least surprising fashion imaginable, the England 3 nibbled at another outside off, in an innings that he was building really well. He had only played and missed a couple for his 25, not moving his feet before skipping through the shot. Another poor dismissal from the England camp following an extremely tidy spell for Hazlewood, where I could barely remember the last run scored off him before the dismissal, because there were a fair few dots leading up to the wicket. Caught in two minds there, Clever bowling and a big wicket with only a handful of balls left until lunch. 91-2 was the score at the break.
After the Lunch Break 5 runs came off the first over, after a long dry spell for the England team before it, which included a crashing cut shot that brought up Stoneman’s 50 and the 100 for England for two wickets. In the next over Mitch Marsh on his return dropped Stoneman in a fairly straightforward catch at first slip. Has to be catching that. Yet another drop from Australia this series. Clearly for them if it’s not a worldie off your own bowling or with the gloves on, it isn’t worth catching. Stoneman’s weight was still hugely on the back foot, he looked like he was expecting it short like a lot has been to him. Ooooooh and not long after the ball is dropped in short taking out the neck guard of Stoneman, that has to have shaken him up a bit. Very similar to a similar knock that Root took in the first test.
Stoneman was then dropped again not long after, this time by Lyon at gully with a catch he should be taking. More top bowling by Hazlewood followed the two drops, softening Root up to be strangled down the leg side by Cummins for another early dismissal for the England skipper for just 20 this time. This left England on 115-3, and another collapse potentially looming. The danger signs only increased with another appeal for Malan, with the England batsman on 3, just missing a ball going down the leg side again with the visitors on the ropes.
Stoneman fell not long after to another short Hazlewood ball in controversial fashion. The ball fizzed past Stoneman, just nicking off the gloves of the England batsman. It had to be reviewed by Smith and the initial evidence given to Aleem Dar, the third official was just not conclusive enough to overturn Marias Erasmus’s on-field decision. However later angles showed that the decision was correct, calming down a lot of people at home who were left fuming at the decision, just like Root who told Stoneman to go back out and not accept the decision. A very lucky 56 from the opener, but thoroughly deserved. England were on 131-4 and I have to admit, this left me very nervous another collapse was coming.
Bairstow came in at 6 to great relief for a lot of England fans, who have been asking for him to be bumped up the order for a while now. Malan continued to play his shots and bairstow got off the mark well with a boundary. The Australian attack had been like a pack of wolves all day and continued to attack the two batsman.
Lyon came on, and his reputation at the ground for not getting turn proved itself to be true. His first over os his third spell barely troubled anyone. Marsh came on at the other end doing much of the same, but offering up the ball to hit slightly more. The afternoon session slowly winded up with England only getting 84 from it, for the price of Stoneman and Vince, with the big talking points being Australia’s poor catching with many still discussing the Stoneman dismissal. Advantage Australia at the break. 175-4
Cummins opened up after the break with Lyon at the other end, with Malan and Bairstow to aim at. And again it was a fairly slow start, with Australia taking their foot off of the pace. Malan brought up his 50, in an innings that could have saved England from humiliation. Smart batting from the left hander that has got England out of bother yet again. Bairstow started attacking Lyon, in positivity few England players have shown against the spinner.
Hazlewood was brought back on because of this wicket threat and still bowled very well. Lots of short stuff still, but England were slightly more on top of it this time, with several boundaries coming in the following overs. Four more for the Eng-e-land became the anthem of the Barmy Army for the rest of the day really. Starc came on and got more of the same treatment, with Malan and Bairstow attacking the bowlers, punishing anything mediocre. Some poor bowling from Starc proved just how good Paine is, making several absolutely top stops, as he has been doing all innings. The game was stopped way too many times in the next overs, with the waiters behind the bowlers arm not getting the message that they couldn’t just walk across the sightscreen. This frustrated Malan a lot who was visibly annoyed by the constant breaks.
Cummins got closest to taking a wicket, with an LBW appeal being referred by Smith. An odd decision considering he had just asked Lyon at deep point, who told him, and correctly so that it was going well over. Another review that slightly reeks of desperation from the Aussie skipper. The impact on the pads went down to umpire’s call and the ball was going over the top of the stumps. Malan reached his highest test score with a beautiful shot, sending the ball packing down the ground off the bowling of Lyon.
The hundred partnership was brought up by a single, before a cracking Malan cover drive showed that this outfield only needs timing. England were on 236-4 and sitting much more comfortably then they were before this partnership. Marsh came back on, narrowly missing out on Bairstow’s wicket with two balls being chopped past the wicket, before getting much of the same treatment as the other bowlers, with the batsmen sending them. The 250 was brought up later, which was relieving as at one point it looked like the hosts would snap England up for sub 200 again.
England used the older ball to their advantage playing out the last ten overs until the new ball’s arrival. More runs followed with Bairstow’s 50 being brought up before the new ball was taken with more hard hitting and little solace for the hosts.
The new ball was taken and the first ball with it produced yet another Australian drop, and Bancroft’s 4th of the series. Him and Smith were very close and either player could have caught it, but horribly judged by Bancroft who was still in way to close, especially for the WACA. Malan would have been counting his lucky stars, after being caught on 92, 8 short of a first century. Starc looked gutted.
The 150 partnership was soon up, before Malan’s first test century. This partnership really changed the face of this game and the Barmy Army were loving every moment of it, happily singing away. Rapturous applause followed around the ground, with a standing ovation truly deserved.
England did well to bring up the 300 run mark before stumps, guided by Malan (110*) and Bairstow (75*). 305-4 was a lot better than anyone expected earlier on, and yet again in this series a side has been in the ascendency without following up on it. The pick of the bowlers was definitely Hazlewood but with only 1 wicket. Starc got wickets again, but giving away over 4 an over for just two of them, and Cummins surprisingly bowled the most overs, being the main reason the runs were kept to a minimum in the second session. Advantage England, but all to play for after the first day, a great day of cricket, living up to expectations.