Hussey confident of Australia fightback
Australia's Ashes situation is so perilous that the hosts will look anywhere for a good omen. After another day of being dominated by England, Michael Hussey peered back four years to the WACA match when Australia wrapped up the urn on the way to a 5-0 cleansweep.
On that occasion the local unit was jammed with world-beating talent and could win from any situation. The current outfit, which was dismissed for 268 after being 4 for 36, has only three players - Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke - from those all-conquering days and is experiencing the country's worst slump in 25 years.
Despite all the troubles, Hussey remained publicly confident of Australia's chances in the game, which could determine whether England retains the urn. "I don't think it's as below par as some people would think," Hussey said of the score. "I've played in quite a few Test matches here where the first-innings totals have been in the mid-200s.
"Tomorrow will tell the tale if we're below par or not. Even four years ago we were out for a similar total and were able to bowl England out for less than us. It will have to be the same again."
On that occasion Australia were dismissed for 244 and gained a 29-run lead on first innings before running away with the contest with hundreds to Hussey, Clarke and Adam Gilchrist. This time they will rely on a bowling attack with six serious operators but only one spinner after Ponting decided to conscript a pace army.
The tactic might have been more successful if Ponting had won the toss, but instead Andrew Strauss chose to bowl and his men benefited from the bouncy, seaming conditions. The first wicket went to Chris Tremlett (3 for 63) in the second over of the day and by the time Steven Smith was dismissed shortly after lunch the hosts were 5 for 69.
Michael Beer, the left-arm spinner, was not handed a debut in a strange move and Ponting will have to rotate his quicks as Australia desperately chase their first wicket. "The selectors decided to go the fast-bowler option and we just need to back that 100%," Hussey said. "There's certainly enough there for the fast bowlers and it's good we've got a good artillery of them."
England finished at 0 for 28 and had few troubles against Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris. "It was a great last half an hour," Tremlett said. "The guys fought hard to fight off the new ball, which is key, so we'll look to bat time, get a healthy lead, and look to go out and bowl them out again."
Australia have managed only 16 breakthroughs in the series and Hussey is hoping for a quick turnaround. "I'm quietly confident, we've certainly got a pitch that will aid us," he said. "If we can bowl well at both ends and get the ball in the right area there's enough there for us. There's enough grass on the wicket and enough movement off the seam."
Hussey posted a hard-working 61 when the conditions were at their toughest and it continued his impressive streak since he saved his career with a domestic hundred for Western Australia last month. He has 401 runs for the series but is not getting much top-order help. Mitchell Johnson (62) and Brad Haddin (53) were the other major contributors on another troubling day.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo