By Abhijit Banare
Dec 17, 2013
Australia regained the Ashes with a thumping 150-run victory over England in the third Test at Perth. Ben Stokes who stood in between Australia and victory scored his maiden Test ton but it was not enough to save the visitors. Australia have gained an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match Test series.
Needing five wickets going into Day Five, Australia were made to wait after a fighting 76-run partnership between Matt Prior and Stokes. Twenty two-year-old Stokes hit his maiden Test ton under pressure to keep England alive. He was finally snared by the low bounce off a Nathan Lyon delivery and Australia walked through with the remaining wickets to seal the match.
Three matches and target of over 500 set for England to chase in all the three matches speaks volumes of the domination from Australia. Perhaps the only difference visible in the Perth Test from the other two was a determination from England to fight it out. But that wasn’t going to make much of a difference as Australia were fueled by confidence while England still appeared tentative while batting.
The best time of the match for England was on Day One, when they had Australia five down for 143. There was a belief lingering that they could turn this Test around. From that moment onwards the game kept drifting away and by the end of Day Three, England awaited a knockout punch from Australia.
The dominance by the Aussies started towards the end of second session on Day One when Brad Haddin (55) and Steve Smith (111) shared a crucial 124-run partnership. The total had crept beyond 300 and by the time, Smith completed a well-deserved ton, they were past the average fist innings score at Perth. The Australian tail end who have been reliable in this series hung around and took the team to 385. The determination was there, but so was the worry of yet another collapse. Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry started off well and fought hard to build a solid 85-run stand, before it was back to square one as England batsmen fell to some poor shots. It was the loss of Kevin Pietersen’s wicket in both the innings that signaled England’s slide. The pacers had their tail up removing him late on the second day.
Yet there was a lot of hope that Stokes and Ian Bell could help them get closer to the target. But the bowlers were in no mood to let things slip away as they ripped through the batting to take a match-winning lead of 134. The game kept drifting away from the visitors as David Warner and Chris Rogers tormented the opposition with a 157-run opening stand. England will have to blame themselves for some sloppy fielding, especially Prior for allowing Australia to run away in the second innings. Warner galloped to a ton as Australia by the end of the third day looked all set pile on another baggage of a 500+ target. Yet skipper Michael Clarke wouldn’t have thought it would come all that easy.
Shane Watson clobbered the bowlers sprinting to his fourth Test ton on the fourth morning. And George Bailey continued the humiliation with a record 28-run over off James Anderson before Australia declared at 369 for six setting a 504-run target.
With the poor form that England batsmen were in, it was all about wait and watch until the bowlers bowled them out once again. There were talks of South Africa’s chase of 414 in 2008 being replicated for a brief moment but the reality struck when Cook was bowled on the first ball of the chase. All through the fourth day, England fought and fought hard defending as much as possible. Yet again, the pacers bowled relentlessly and earned their wickets at regular intervals until Bell and Stokes gave them some headache. While the hosts managed to get Bell’s wicket for 60, but England had managed a little task of taking the match into the fifth day.
Stokes and Prior added to the frustration of Clarke and co. seeing out the first hour of play and looked comfortable even after the new ball was taken. Australia finally managed to get the breakthrough when Prior tried to drive a wide delivery off Mitchell Johnson and edged it to the wicketkeeper. Clarke was elated but Stokes continued to fight it out and reached to his ton. This is now the first Test ton by an England batsman at No 6 since Bell hit one against Sri Lanka in 2011. And also the first by the visitors in this series.
Australia went in to lunch knowing that they were close. Stokes’s wicket finally set off the celebrations as a distant fightback too went out of the window for England. The bowlers cleaned up the tail to register a comprehensive win.
The last Ashes win for Australia came in 2006-07 when they whitewashed England 5-0 at home. The aggressive brand of cricket has finally paid off for Clarke. Credit for coach Darren Lehmann as well for turning the fortunes after taking over just 18 days before the Ashes earlier this year which they lost.
Australia 385 (David Warner 60, Steve Smith 111, Brad Haddin 55; Stuart Broad 3 for 100, James Anderson 2 for 60) and 369 for 6 decl. (David Warner 112, Shane Watson 103; Tim Breesnan 2 for 53) beat England 251 (Alastair Cook 72, Michael Carberry 43; Ryan Harris 3 for 48, Peter Siddle 3 for 46) and 353 (Ian Bell 60, Ben Stokes 120; Mitchell Johnson 4 for 78, Nathan Lyon 3 for 70 by 150 runs.
(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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