Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day December 17, 2010

Silencing the Barmy Army

Out-of-form leaders
Ricky Ponting's grim series with the bat continued when he was caught off his glove on 1, giving him 83 runs in six innings for the series. Ponting, who hooked his first ball to get his single, jumped awkwardly across the stumps to his ninth delivery as he attempted to glance Steven Finn. Reprieved initially, he stood his ground when England called for a replay, but was forced to walk off ahead of schedule again. Michael Clarke, the vice-captain, started more brightly but his light went out on 20 when he played-on from an angled bat. Australia need more from their leaders if they are to challenge England over the rest of the series.

Aussies' Ashes nadir?
After watching England's fielders inhale some astonishing takes on the first day, not least Paul Collingwood's salmon leap to remove Ricky Ponting, Australia knew they had to respond in kind, but the early signs were not exactly encouraging. Late on the first evening, Ponting misjudged a looping chance with Strauss on 0, while Mike Hussey didn't see a cut that flew at gully straight out of the setting sun. But nothing was as bad as the miss that Brad Haddin and Shane Watson contrived in the third over today. With Strauss still to settle, he snicked Ryan Harris at waist height towards the cordon. But keeper looked to slip, and slip looked back at keeper, and the opportunity fizzed away for four. It looked, at that moment, that the bottom had fallen out of their campaign.

Sid Vicious
While Johnson took a breather in the wake of his morning onslaught, the challenge for Australia was to keep control in his absence. Into the attack came Peter Siddle, a bowler who hadn't struck since claiming six on the opening day of the series, with an extraordinary field that evoked memories of Bodyline as Ponting packed the leg side with as many men on or behind square as possible. Siddle responded with a wasted over of short balls from round the wicket that Matt Prior allowed to sail harmlessly by, but in his second over, he got the line spot on. Prior wore a bouncer painfully on his shoulder, then deflected the next ball down onto his leg stump. Whether he was distracted by the simultaneous arrival of a rogue seagull was a moot point. He was gone for 12, and the Aussies were into the tail.

Spiking the Army's guns
The Barmy Army was slow to find its voice on the second day, and little wonder, but with Ian Bell charming a fifty in the face of some intense pressure, and Graeme Swann providing gutsy support in a 36-run stand for the seventh wicket, they figured at last they could dare to start to sing. Unfortunately, no sooner had they raised the noise levels down at third man, Harris found enough movement on off stump for Swann to graze a thin edge through to Haddin. As the rest of the cordon rushed up the pitch to start the celebrations, Haddin wheeled away with fists clenched in the direction of the stands. As well he might.

All bets off ... and then on
It may prove to be the right decision eventually, but there will be nervous days ahead for an Australian betting agency that has already paid out all A$400,000 of its bets on an England series win. The decision was made before Mitchell Johnson's 6 for 38 and England's dismissal for 187, which gave the hosts a chance to level the campaign. "Unfortunately for Australian cricket fans the writing is on the wall and we can't see the Aussies coming back from here," Sportsbet.com.au's chief executive Matthew Tripp said. If they do, it will be doubly costly.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo, Andrew Miller is UK editor

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