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December 16, 2010
A relatively slow start
After a wicket from the third ball in Brisbane and one from the fourth delivery in Adelaide, there was more opening-over excitement in Perth. Shane Watson was given out caught behind from the sixth offering of the day, but he immediately appealed Billy Doctrove's decision. The replay showed the ball hitting his hip and the game had to wait until the end of the second over for the first breakthrough, when Phillip Hughes was bowled.
Until he returned to wrap up Australia's innings, Graeme Swann's reputation for first-over strikes had taken a bit of a nose-dive in this series. But he's still the man to claim the key wicket in an innings. Since his beasting at the hands of Michael Hussey at the Gabba, he's bounced back impressively with Hussey's scalp in consecutive first innings, and today's breakthrough was every bit as crucial as the nick to slip that he induced at Adelaide. Brad Haddin had belted him for four and six in his first over, but to the fourth ball after the drinks break, Hussey propped forward to a corker that straightened on off stump. Umpire Doctrove was unmoved, but Matt Prior - whose judgment with referrals has been iffy in this series - was already signalling for a referral as he rushed up to celebrate. This time the replay showed a clear nick, and Hussey was gone for an innings-breaking 61.
There's plenty of distance yet to run in this match, but if England do go on to seal the Ashes at the WACA, it could well be that Paul Collingwood's catch to dismiss Ricky Ponting will be recalled as the iconic image of the series. It was a sizzling dismissal that encapsulated Ponting's struggles to impose himself on the campaign, as he fenced outside off to James Anderson and looked back in horror as Collingwood took off to his right, and clutched a lightning quick edge in his outstretched palm. It was reminiscent in many ways of Andrew Strauss's one-handed pluck off Adam Gilchrist at Trent Bridge in 2005, not least because England's success in silencing Gilchrist throughout that summer was arguably the single biggest factor in their triumph. With a solitary score above 12 in five attempts, Ponting is running out of time to find his form.
Hits among the misses
Despite the devastating bouts of destruction, the Australian batsmen remained keen to attack and Haddin, Hussey and Mitchell Johnson were successful in bursts. Haddin opened his shoulders to charge Graeme Swann, lofting him to long-off for a boundary, and two balls later picked up a six to long-on. Michael Hussey brought up his half-century with a slash over gully off Steven Finn and followed up with two pulled boundaries in the same over shortly before his dismissal. Johnson's swipe to midwicket off Swann was initially ruled a six but downgraded to a four on replay, but he cleared the rope down the ground straight after tea.
Forty-eight hours in a plane have not wearied James Anderson, nor has he been mellowed by the arrival of his new daughter, Ruby. In the absence of Stuart Broad it was feared that England's attack would have lost a key element of aggression, but Anderson ensured that there was plenty needle out in the middle, not least when Johnson entered the fray for his half-century. Throughout their duel the pair could be seen sniping at one another, and Anderson's celebrations when he bowled Ryan Harris for 3 were pointed to say the least. He ran backwards down the pitch, arms outstretched as he gestured to the non-striker Johnson, before finishing with a silencing finger to the lips. Anderson secured the last laugh in the feud when he caught Johnson on the pull at square-leg, but before he could get too gleeful, he was struck down by cramp.
Australia's last pair showed some muscle and spirit as they put on 35 to push the total to 268. Peter Siddle's innings of 35 was boosted by some heavy hitting, including two hefty boundaries in an over from Finn. Ben Hilfenhaus (13) is not known as a big striker, but he cover-drove Tremlett for four and then rocked back next ball to pull him to the fence. It was a bright end to a dull day for the hosts.
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