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Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day
England lacked inspiration
December 15, 2006
England's batting order woes continue
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Every time that England make a move to get on top of Australia, Australia seem to hit back and come up with the right answer. England needed some partnerships today and particularly a good partnership between Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen - they were the two guys who could have given England a lead of 100 - which I think they needed, in the first innings, to be in a good position to win this game.

It's not the kind of pitch that suits [Paul] Collingwood. The extra bounce shows up a weakness which I think he hasaround off stump and he was soon out playing in that area.

The Pietersen-Strauss partnership looked good. Strauss played very positively - he's not in bad form - throughout the series he's got starts but he hasn't been able to build on them. And as it happens when things aren't going right for you in the series, he got another dubious decision, just like he did in Adelaide. And, just like it happened in Adelaide, that dubious decision sent England off on a slide here in Perth. Strauss had already hit a very good cover-drive off Stuart Clark but Clark bowled a very good ball not long after that. It looked just like the other ball, but it pitched just a few centimeters shorter, Strauss went for a big drive, seemed to miss the ball, there was a noise and umpire Rudi Koertzen sent him on his way and that was a big blow for England.

Pietersen batted extremely well and there was more proof that he needs to bat at number 4 for England. If he comes in at number 4 he's got the opportunity to dictate terms in the match. But coming in at number 5, if England then have a bit of a collapse - they lose a couple of quick wickets - then the match is dictating to Pietersen how he must play and that's exactly what happened here in Perth. He must bat at number 4 for the benefit of England.

[Andrew] Flintoff is struggling for form and eventually he was out to Andrew Symonds who came on to bowl a bit of medium-pace. He then followed it up with the wicket of Geraint Jones.

For a man who has been picked for his batting, he [Geraint Jones] hasn't shown any of life as a batsman in this series. He made the cardinal blunder in Perth of trying to hit the ball behind square-leg while batting instead of in front of point through the covers. Instead he tried to square-drive it and it ended up in the hands of Matthew Hayden in gully. I don't understand why a player, on a bouncy wicket, is trying to hit the ball behind the wicket when a lot of the fielders in Perth are placed behind the wicket. So Jones was on his way and England were in a lot of trouble.

[Matthew] Hoggard has got to bat at number 11. [Steve] Harmison is a good lower order player because he's got some shots and he can hit some boundaries. Hoggard is a good, defensive player but he struggles to score runs. There's some codswollop about Monty Panesar and his ability as a batsman - well, he's got quite a good ability as a batsman. He's got a reasonable defense and he can play quite a few shots and he played them today. He hit quite a few boundaries of Shane Warne.

Pietersen was doing some serious damage off Warne. He just got a bit carried away in trying to hit Brett Lee out of the park when all he had to do was push a single, get down the other end and then he would have had a crack at Warne. The blood rush came to his head, he tried to hit Brett Lee but then he was on his way at a time when he could have done some serious damage for England.

Then England had a terrific partnership between Panesar and Harmison - in fact it was the best partnership of the whole innings for England - and they got the deficit down to 29. That looked manageable and it looked even better when Hoggard got rid of Justin Langer off the first delivery and it looked like England were back in the fight.

Once again it was the typical problem for England that there were just too few good balls. Harmison in particular bowled few very good balls to Ricky Ponting - he beat the bat - but just couldn't get him out and there just weren't enough good balls. There was enough there for Ponting to hit a few boundaries, same thing for Matthew Hayden and that just released the pressure.

And eventually this partnership between Ponting and Hayden got on top and overpowered England and then the effort seemed to die down from England at a time when they really needed to do something. They really needed to pick up wickets and get back into the game but they weren't able to find the inspiration.

So England are now really looking down the barrel. Australia have now pushed the lead well past 100, they've got 9 wickets in hand and they looked comfortable. The only thing that can save England now is a good night's sleep and they hit hard tomorrow. They've got to get some early wickets, they've got to get rid of Ponting and Hayden quickly and they've got to get that momentum going because if Australia can build the lead over 300 then I think England are in trouble and at this stage Australia must feel like they've got one hand on the urn and are about to get a second one on it. So England have got to throw everything at Australia tomorrow morning or that little urn is gone.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

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