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,"'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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • andre on December 18, 2010, 3:24 GMT

    Geez bookmakers are dumb. And a pretty dumb comment that Ponting and Clarke need to do more if Australia are to challenge. They are challenging now and Ponting and Clarke are doing nothing. They won't just challenge, they will dominate England.

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 14:29 GMT

    Bell is clearly a case of what confidence can do an individual. He has always been a technically sound batsman who has grown in confidence and is actually sure footed, attractive to watch and a darn sight better than colllingwood and perhaps Trott. If England has to chase a big score as they well might, it would be useful for Bell to bat at three rather than Trott . Collingwood has not done much for some time now but then England has been winning. It might be interesting to a neutral from India to watch what happens when England loses, as they well might. Will Eoin Morgan get a look in? Then suddenly all the assurance might disappear and the momentum that England spoke about so much after Brisbane might just disappear or move towards Australia. Having said that I think Australia are only slightly ahead for no Australian bowler has bowled consistently in two innings- not Siddle, not Johnson so far. But we have a contest and that is great and Bell is in great form sridhar

  • Cameron on December 17, 2010, 14:23 GMT

    Aatif: England cannot draw this game. With a full three days of play ahead & forecast of clear skies & hotter weather ahead, it will be won or lost by either side. It appears the MJ of old is back & God knows we needed him. He bowled with real verve & zest today. Though down on pace, I feel this is the trade off for greater control. Fantastic to see him serve it up to England today. Equally great to see the confidence & fire of the man who stormed up the rankings two summers ago. The KP dismissal & send off was brilliant, as was the dismissal of a very, very timid James Anderson (not so much as a peep out of him with bat in hand & no one around to back him up). GO MJ!!!!

  • Bryn on December 17, 2010, 12:08 GMT

    ryan harris is the man, love his skid and pace like dale steyn

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    Bell should be sent prior to Collingwood. Bell played really well in extreme pressure. wickets were trembling. Had England wickets in hands, Bell would have played much sensibly for more hours. But for Australian point of view, Mitchell Johnsan found the right line and length at the right time. His 62 runs were are crucial and who knows ? could be match winning. Australia has a great chance to win this match and to equalize the series. England can only draw from here i reckon. This is the same kind of scenario as was in the first test, where England were bowled out for 240 something and then bounced back rightly in the second innings. This has to be the same performance by England if they want to still move up to series with 1-0.

  • Dave on December 17, 2010, 11:58 GMT

    @Something Witty - Bell`s had so many critics because he`s looked painfully out of his depth in previous Ashes clashes. Looked absolutely fantastic all this series though, and might find himself at no3 for melbourne and/or Sydney. Never rated him myself, but he looks as accomplished as any player on either side at the mo - and a delight to watch.

  • Adam on December 17, 2010, 11:56 GMT

    Well the Australian support has hardly bothered to turn up thus far, so Haddin can turn to the Barmy army all he likes.

    Not sure a bad day for England really matters, the Barmy Army had bigger numbers when England were truly awful.

    And yes, strong arguement for Bell to move up the order now.

  • John on December 17, 2010, 10:32 GMT

    Ian Bell really has looked great this series. I don't know why he has so many critics, he's very attractive to watch and is very correct technically. Not sure why he's batting so low in the order either.

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