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Ashes: Jonathan Agnew column

Third Ashes Test, Perth (day one, stumps):
Australia 268 v England 29-0
Venue: Waca Date: 16-20 December. Play resumes 0230 GMT on 17 Dec Coverage: Live on Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 LW, 5 live sports extra and online; live highlights and day's review on the TMS podcast ; live text commentary on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4

Australian captin Ricky Ponting watches as he is caught by Paul Collingwood
Collingwood's superb slip catch was indicative of England's fielding display

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Perth

It was a bold, confident decision by Andrew Strauss to put Australia in to bat at the Waca, which will have been partly motivated by the presence of grass on the wicket but also the lack of confidence in the Australian batsmen.

With Australia having gone down the four quick bowler route, Ricky Ponting would have had to put England into bat had he won the toss, but England did not have such an attack and did not have to do so.

The tourists can see how low in confidence the Australian top order is and this was backed up by the way they played today.

Michael Clarke's shot was poor and Phillip Hughes' stroke was appalling for a man who is just back in the Test side and with a lot to prove, but this is what happens when you are playing badly as a side.

The problem for Australia is that the openers are simply not providing the platform they need and that is why Ponting and Clarke are being exposed to the new ball far too early and are being swept away.

TOM FORDYCE'S BLOG

This is not a 268 all out pitch by any means. With the score at 69-5 England may feel they should have rolled them out for 150.

However, the fact that almost all of the lower order Australian batsmen got runs shows that once the shine is off the new ball it is a pretty decent pitch. England will look at that and think they should score 450, which is no doubt what they will aim to do on Friday.

Before the match Ponting was pointing to Chris Tremlett's inclusion and the possibility that James Anderson might be tired - he travelled to the UK for the birth of his child in the break between Tests - as potential weaknesses for England, but there were no signs of this.

Tremlett bowled extremely well. I favoured Bresnan to be picked because of the length he would bowl, but Tremlett bowled a full length. He got a nice early wicket, which geed him up and he went on to perform superbly.

England's fielding was again brilliant. There were two truly outstanding slip catches, firstly from Paul Collingwood to dismiss Ponting and then Graeme Swann to end Brad Haddin's innings.

A catch like Collingwood's is totally deflating for Australia. It took Ponting an age to drag himself away from the wicket afterwards - he couldn't believe it.

But these are the sort of catches you take when your team is on top, full of confidence and playing well.

England have worked hard at their fielding, but it does not always happen for you. It happens when everything else clicks. Australia will have been working just as hard at their fielding but because their confidence is so down and they are playing badly as a team, their fielding has deteriorated.

In 12 overs at the end of the day, we saw at least two fumbles in the field by the home side. They used to set the standard but now England are being raved about. Former Aussie pace bowler Terry Alderman said to me that he has never seen an England side field like this and he is right.

Friday is going to be a huge day as it could well be a case of England batting through, building a big lead and heading into the third day that could see Swann's spin come to the fore.

Australia have got an awful lot of hard work to do tomorrow if they are to keep this series alive.

The pressure is mounting on Ponting. He cannot keep failing to score runs and seeing his team lose.

His time in charge may well be coming to an end. Who knows what might happen if things continue this way into Sydney. If the situation determines that the Ashes are gone and he can't score a run, he might well feel that he has had enough by then.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Phil Dawkes.


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see also
Waugh joins Ponting future debate
16 Dec 10 |  Australia
Justin Langer's key moments
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Tremlett puts England in command
16 Dec 10 |  England
Tremlett delighted by performance
16 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Third Ashes Test day one photos
16 Dec 10 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
15 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Australia deserve flak - Ponting
15 Dec 10 |  Australia
Strauss buoyed by Anderson return
15 Dec 10 |  England
Langer unsure of Perth significance
15 Dec 10 |  Australia
Aussies eye pace quartet for Test
14 Dec 10 |  Australia
England seek win to retain Ashes
14 Dec 10 |  Cricket
England complete Adelaide triumph
07 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Records fall as England draw Test
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket


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