By Abhijit Banare
Dec 12, 2013
After the first two Ashes Tests earlier this year in England, Australia were battered, bruised and were tagged as losers even before they walked out for the third Test at Manchester. Critics were aiming their potshots at anyone available on their way. The tables have turned and England are now at the receiving end after losing back-to-back Tests at Gabba and Adelaide. Geoffrey Boycott has already made his stand clear that England lack the “desire and heart” in retaining the Ashes. But for Alastair Cook and Co. all is not lost. A double edged-sword awaits them for the third Test. Their bowling that has been blunted by some fine performance with the bat starting with Michael Clarke, will have to sharpen its teeth on the bouncy Perth wicket. At the same time, the batsmen who have been below par since a while now have an uphill task on their hands with the Australian quicks in red-hot form.
While the loss at Gabba was demoralising, the defeat at Adelaide presented an embarrassing future of possibly losing the Ashes just months after they outclassed the same opposition.
It’s an interesting co-incidence that the captains of both teams are going to complete their 100 Test matches. Both have had a phenomenal cricketing career. Yet, the numbers wouldn’t be hovering at the back of their minds in comparison to the task they have ahead of them, especially — Alastair Cook. Cook has been England’s dependable batsman at the top of the order, but he has failed to register big scores and the fragile middle-order has been exposed time and again.
Only Joe Root showed some signs of improvement defying the Australian aggression for a hard-fought 87 in the second innings. Apart from him, only Ian Bell inspires confidence. The rest of the batsmen especially, Kevin Pietersen will have to play a big knock to not just rescue England, but score enough runs to aim for a victory against a confident set of Australian pacers.
If the first Test was about the pace of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle too joined the party in the second Test and Ryan Harris has been a valuable asset all through. Harris though, will be a doubtful starter for the third Test, as he has picked up a niggle in his troublesome knee. Though the management stated that Harris would continue training, James Faulkner is likely to take his place, if Harris is ruled out.
From Australia’s perspective, it has been a dream start with Johnson and the pace-battery using the short ball to great extent and have dented the confidence of the English batsmen. And nothing can be more encouraging than taking that confidence into a venue where they have the necessary conditions to push England out of the series. In comparison, the England bowlers have been subdued by the opposition batsmen. Perth provides a perfect scenario for them to make a comeback. A dry-run for James Anderson and Graeme Swann is not helping England, but they will be eager to make this crucial encounter count. Australians are unlikely to fiddle with their playing XI, but Cook might have a re-look at Ben Stokes’s inclusion.
Ahead of the Test, Matt Prior admitted that it couldn’t get tougher than this. He minced no words and highlighted the need for the team to pull up their socks. The determination seems evident in the words, but how well can they convert it into a formidable performance will be one to watch out for.
Test record at Perth
England and Australia have played 12 Tests at Perth. While they have manage to notch up one victory which was back in December 1978, the English side has lost eight matches and only three have ended in a draw. With a trampoline wicket on offer, and looking at the quality pace attack both teams posses, it is unlikely that the match is going to end in a draw. The Australian supporters will be eagerly awaiting in what could be a series-deciding Test.
Australia (probable): Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Steven Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.
England (probable): Michael Carberry, Alastair Cook (c), Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn.
Time: 2:30 GMT | 08.00 IST
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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