England 4 for 305 (Malan 110*, Bairstow 75*, Stoneman 56) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
There was a wry smile on Joe Root's face when he won the toss at the WACA and chose to bat. At Adelaide Oval, he had learnt the hard way that sending the opposition in and then losing is difficult for a captain to live down. So in Perth it was back to conventional wisdom: bat first and put runs on the board. On a day when Dawid Malan scored his maiden Test century and Mark Stoneman posted his highest Test score, and England moved to 4 for 305 at stumps, Root must have breathed a sigh of relief.
And by the close of play, another decision had also paid off for England: the move of Jonny Bairstow up from No. 7 to No. 6. Bairstow was the second leading scorer in Test cricket in 2016, but has found himself batting behind Moeen Ali in this series - until today. At stumps, he was on 75 and Malan had 110, and their unbeaten 174-run partnership was England's best Ashes stand in Australia since the second Test of their memorable 2010-11 campaign.
Notably, England's success on this day came without significant contributions from Root, who made a brisk 20 before he gloved one down leg off Pat Cummins, or Alastair Cook, who began his 150th Test in disappointing fashion by missing a straight one from Mitchell Starc and being adjudged lbw for 7 in the fifth over of the match. Little did England care, though, for all that mattered was that at 2-0 down they had given themselves some hope of fighting back in the series.
Australia may yet rue a missed opportunity late in the day when Starc swung the first delivery with the second new ball and Malan, on 92, edged to third slip, where Cameron Bancroft spilled the chance. It was Australia's second dropped catch in the cordon: Mitchell Marsh at first slip had grassed a straightforward chance off Josh Hazlewood's bowling when Stoneman edged on 52. At least that cost Australia little, for Stoneman was soon out for 56.
But the key to the day was the Malan-Bairstow stand, which lasted throughout the final session and set England up for a potentially hefty first-innings total. Malan was strong when driving through cover and he was given plenty of opportunities to do so. Australian fast bowlers have often spoken of the importance of not getting carried away with the pace and bounce at the WACA, where visiting fast men regularly bowl too short. Here Australia were punished when they bowled full.
Malan struck 15 fours and one six - a top-edged hook off Starc - and brought up his century late in the afternoon with a boundary pulled off Hazlewood, from his 159th delivery. It was the 20th century of Malan's first-class career and his second on this tour, after he scored 109 against the Cricket Australia XI in Townsville, and it was the first by any England player in an Ashes Test in Australia since Ben Stokes at the WACA four years ago.
Bairstow too could go to bed dreaming of an Ashes hundred, having already managed the highest score of his 12-Test Ashes career. He was productive through the leg side when the Australians bowled too straight and by stumps had struck 10 boundaries.
There were a few cracks on the WACA surface at the toss, and a little bit of grass, but the Australians believed it would be a good batting pitch, hence their decision to include Mitchell Marsh for Peter Handscomb as a fifth bowling option. It was Marsh's first Test since the tour of India earlier this year and while he did send down seven overs on the opening day, it was Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins who looked the most likely to do any damage.
Stoneman was impressive when sweeping Nathan Lyon, who found himself struggling for impact for the first time in the series, and the opener also picked off three fours from one Starc over early in the day. But Stoneman's initially quick scoring rate slowed considerably after lunch, when he was struck on the helmet by a fierce bouncer from Hazlewood. The next delivery was another short one that Stoneman fended towards Lyon at point, though he couldn't hold a tough chance, and soon Stoneman found himself bogged down.
Stoneman's fifty came up from his 82nd delivery but soon fell to another accurate bouncer, this time from Starc. Stoneman was given not out on field but Australia's review was upheld by third umpire Aleem Dar, on the evidence of a Snicko spike as the ball passed Stoneman's glove on the way through to Tim Paine. The hasty overturning of the decision caused a brief ruckus, but further replays showed it was the correct call.
The review perhaps also overshadowed the fact that it was a brilliant take from Paine, who had to leap into the air and snared the catch with one hand thrust above his head. But it was the last breakthrough of the day for Australia, who had picked up Cook and James Vince, who flirted outside off and edged behind off Hazlewood for 25, in the first session, and then Root and Stoneman in the second. Malan and Bairstow ensured this was unequivocally England's day.