November 30, 2002

England face uphill battle in Perth

After Australia had established a first innings lead of 271 on the second day of the third Test in Perth, England had to face a daunting examination of technique and temperament against the extreme pace of Brett Lee and the probing accuracy of Glenn McGrath. They lost Marcus Trescothick to a Lee rocket, but Michael Vaughan and nightwatchman Richard Dawson held out to close on 33 for one - still 238 runs short of making Australia bat again.

The day did not start well for England with the news that Chris Silverwood had damaged ankle ligaments and had been ruled out of bowling for the remainder of the Test. That put an extra workload on the remaining bowlers, but off-spinner Dawson was only required to bowl five overs.

There was no lack of effort from the England bowlers, but little inspiration as the Australian batsmen relished the conditions and the situation. There were runs and partnerships all down the order as they moved to a total of 456 based on a succession of individual contributions rather than one or two dominant innings.

Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn extended their overnight partnership to 74 - the highest of the innings - by adding 33 runs in the first 11 overs of the morning. Ponting had gone to his fifty and reached 68 when Nasser Hussain replaced the pacy Steve Harmison with Craig White. Ponting will rue the lack of foot movement as he edged the ball from just outside off stump into his wicket.

Darren Lehmann has yet to establish himself in the Australian side, but he got his opportunity to bat at number five when Steve Waugh was unwell with a stomach upset. He played with more assurance than previously in the series and was audibly upset with himself when he took on White on the stroke of lunch when he had 42. He hooked uppishly and cried "Oh no" as the ball sailed to Harmison at long leg.

Martyn had been a study of concentration, taking 120 balls to reach his fifty, but he was having the effect of wearing down the depleted England bowling resources. He moved forward to become the top scorer in the innings with 71 when he played a somewhat loose shot outside the off stump to edge Alex Tudor to the wicket-keeper.

As one Western Australian left the crease, another, Adam Gilchrist, arrived to an expectant welcome from the WACA crowd. It was the captain Steve Waugh who moved serenely to his fifty and Gilchrist, with characteristic gusto, who blazed his way to 38 from 28 balls with seven fours and a six. Gilchrist's blood was running and England would have been delighted to get him when they did as he hooked White to long leg where Tudor did well to keep just inside the boundary rope as he held the catch.

The new ball was taken to account for Waugh who fell to Tudor, just as he did on the bowler's debut four years ago on this ground. The Australian captain played across a full length delivery and was bowled. However, the departure of the last of the recognised batsmen did not signal the end of England's torment. The last three wickets added 108 runs in 18 overs.

Shane Warne was enjoying himself immensely in partnership with Lee who was getting a bit of a working over from the English pace bowlers. Lee was not unduly perturbed as he unfurled some rasping shots that took the score along at a steady rate.

The partnership of 68 was only ended when Warne took on Harmison's arm at long off when going for a greedy third and he was run out for 35. Lee slashed White to Robert Key at third man for an enterprising 41, before a clubbing innings from Jason Gillespie came to an end when he was yorked to give White his third five-wicket haul in a Test innings.

England could do with White adding to his one Test hundred in their second innings. Left with a tricky 11 over session to face before stumps, opening batsmen Trescothick and Vaughan had to be at their most trenchant as Waugh gave the new ball to Lee. With the wind at his back, Lee bowled at a furious pace.

Unusually for him, Trescothick was hopping around as he had to in order to avoid Lee's thunderbolts, while at the other end McGrath was plugging away with scarcely a hint of a loose ball. It was in the seventh over of the innings that Lee delivered a hammer-blow to England's hopes by going wide of the crease and forcing Trescothick to fend off the ball lifting rapidly into his body. It took the batsman's glove before lodging in the glove of the leaping Gilchrist and Trescothick - reluctantly - was forced to go.

Dawson played with great courage and no little skill to keep his Yorkshire colleague Vaughan company to the close. Waugh introduced Gillespie for the last over of the day and with the last ball very nearly claimed another wicket. Dawson had an agonising wait after the ball had flown off his pad to short leg before umpire Steve Bucknor turned down the various appeals and called time. A broad smile burst upon the batsman's face as he realised he had survived to face another day. It is sure to be a testing one for him and all his colleagues.