This will be the last ever Ashes test at the WACA, and Australia look set to give it a fitting send-off by ending any hopes that England have of winning the Ashes. The hosts, despite not exerting complete control over both tests, have been more clinical when it counts and there is a distinct feeling that the best chance for England to get back into the series and win a test came when Australia managed to punch through the lower order to win the day/night test in Adelaide.
The margin of victory was eventually 120 runs to add to the ten wickets in Adelaide, but had Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad attacked the Australian top order – especially David Warner (47), Usman Khawaja (53) and also Steve Smith (40) – with the same line and length that had proven to be so successful in the second innings, then things could have been very different despite Shaun Marsh’s match-changing 126.
However, the difference was once again the Australian bowlers, who once again managed to exert more pace from the pitch with Mitchell Starc once again tearing through the English line-ups whilst Pat Cummins’s exploits in the first innings reduced any chance of England batting long enough to threaten their first innings total or take a significant amount of time out of the game. Starc was once again supported ably by Nathan Lyon, who took full advantage of the absence of Moeen Ali to give Steven Smith an extra advantage, and it was one that he ruthlessly hammered away.
The WACA has traditionally been a batting paradise for those who can take advantage of it, and there have been decent totals scored in recent times. The last Ashes test here saw Australia win by 150 runs with totals of 385 & 369/6 against 251 and 353 for the visitors; Afterwards they drew against New Zealand with mammoth totals of 559/9d & 385/7d and 624 & 104/2 for the visitors.
Johnny Bairstow moves upto 6 for England to swap placed with Moeen Ali, but the strength in depth of the two batting lineups is the major worry. No England player has scored a century year (albeit James Vince was unlucky not to have done so) and the top three Batsmen in this series are all Australian. Indeed, after two tests, the Aussies have 237 more runs in total.
It’s not a surprise that all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been added to the squad, giving Smith a fifth bowling option and helping take the pressure of Lyon’s back given that spinners have struggled there, but his namesake Mitchell Starc (below) can take the lead once again. He was the top wicket taker in the second innings at Adelaide and has 21 tickets in four tests here, not a surprise given his athleticism, and his targeting of the tail might give him better wicket taking opportunities.
This should be a batsman’s paradise, however, and the Australian top order should be licking their lips. David Warner – by his own high standards – hasn’t dominated the series, or burst quite into life apart from his 87 not out in the second innings of the first test, but he was in good nick at Adelaide before going for just short of 50 in the first test. His record here is exemplary and seriously worrying for England.
He scored 112 against them the last time they were here and has also made 253 against New Zealand and 180 against India. Given more time, he might well have made it four given more time against South Africa when he hit 97 at what was basically a run a ball. All in all, He has scored two half-centuries and three tons in five matches here for a total of 803 runs, and the 9/2 Stan James offer on a first innings century looks worth chancing and for those who want a tad more security, the half-century option might help.
Warner makes major appeal for the potential man of the match honours as well, and the same goes for Steve Smith, who was the man of the match in the first test despite not batting in the second innings.
1 pt Mitchell Starc top Australia first-innings wicket-taker (11/5 Bet365)
1 pt David Warner to be Man Of The Match (8/1 Bet365)
1 pt Steve Smith to be Man Of The Match (7/1 SkyBet)
1 pt David Warner to score a First Innings century (9/2 Stan James)
1 pt David Warner top Australia first-innings run scorer (3/1 general)