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INTERMITTENT rain showers and a pitch left soggy by overnight rain couldn’t delay the inevitable yesterday: Australia regained the Ashes from England with victory in the third Test.
Steve Smith’s Australian side followed up its convincing victories in the first two tests in Brisbane (by 10 wickets) and Adelaide (120 runs) by winning the third by an even more emphatic margin of an innings and 41 runs to take the best-of-five series 3-0.
Needing to bat through the fifth and final day to salvage a draw and keep the series alive, England were all out for 218 after Perth’s fickle weather almost saved them.
The final day started two hours later than scheduled due to frequent showers, and some wet patches on the pitch because the ground wasn’t covered properly overnight.
And from there, it was all about the state of the pitch.
England’s Australian coach Trevor Bayliss questioned whether the wicket was fit for cricket, saying the leaky covers had made the pitch dangerous. Ground staff used blower vacuums in a bid to dry several damp patches on the pitch, and play eventually got under way.
Smith joked that he had looked at the rain forecast on about 35 different websites the night before, but that he didn’t expect to see a rain-soaked pitch when the covers were taken off yesterday.
“I think it was a shame that some water was able to get through the covers in the first place at an international venue,” Smith said. “That was a shame to start the day.
“But I feel that the umpires made the right call at the time to get us back on and play the game. The whole thing basically dried out and it was hard.”
Before play started, England captain Joe Root tried his best to convince the umpires that the pitch wasn’t up to Test standards. But after the match, Root said the umpires followed the correct procedures.
“The pitch didn’t really, from those spots, really misbehave or become dangerous,” Root said. “So I think credit has to go to the umpires for making the right call when to start the game.”
Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood ripped through England’s middle and lower-order batsmen to hasten the end for England once play got under way.
Hazlewood clean bowled England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow for 14 with his first delivery of the day then added the key wickets of Dawid Malan (54) and Craig Overton (12) to complete his first five-wicket haul in an Ashes Test and finish with figures of 5-48.
Spinner Nathan Lyon (2-42) removed Moeen Ali for 11 before paceman Pat Cummins (2-53) dismissed Stuart Broad (0) and Chris Woakes (22) to seal Australia’s lopsided win just before the rescheduled tea break.
“Very difficult to take, but fair play to Australia, they’ve outplayed us in all three games and we’ve got to be better,” Root said.
Root emphasised the graft put in by one and all, and even wondered aloud whether he himself has perhaps been trying too hard for his own good.
“It’s bitterly disappointing,” he said. But “they tried absolutely everything. It wasn’t for the lack of effort.
“We went through every plan — different fields, bowling straight, hanging it wide, every now and again a bit of bumper warfare.
“It felt like we didn’t leave anything to chance.”
Root was left bemoaning the same factors here as in Brisbane and Adelaide — that England matched Australia, even out-performed them at times, but simply not for long enough.
“I don’t think these three games are a fair reflection of how we’ve played and what we’re capable of,” he added.
“I think we need to do ourselves and the supporters back home justice.
“Probably the biggest thing that has been to my detriment is trying too hard.
“I’ve been desperate to win this series.”
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