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Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Friday, 17 December 2010

Jonathan Agnew column

Third Ashes Test, Perth (day two, stumps):
Australia 268 & 119-3 v England 187
Venue: Waca Date: 16-20 December. Play resumes 0230 GMT on 18 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

Ian Bell walks off after his dismissal
Bell's 53 was not enough to prevent England falling to 187 all out

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Perth

One of the Australian national newspapers tore into their national cricket side on Friday morning in response to how one-sided the third Ashes Test had been so far.

Early on the second day, when an edge from Andrew Strauss flew between keeper and first slip with no-one getting a hand to it, it appeared a case of 'here we go again' and we all assumed England would be well on the way to racking up a sizeable lead by the evening.

But a very special spell from Mitchell Johnson has turned this match on its head and lifted the entire home team. Suddenly, the Australians are believing in themselves again.

When we were looking forward to this series, it struck me the one thing that was missing, from a classic Test series point of view, was a genuinely fast bowler who can rapidly blow a hole in a batting line-up.


The reason I thought this was that we had not seen Johnson bowl anything like his reputedly match-winning best in any Test match he has played, either against England or in England against Pakistan.

The Australian media have talked him up, but he was very ordinary at the Gabba and was dropped. Johnson looked like a different man on Friday. His was a devastating spell of bowling, up there with the best of anything we have seen in recent years.

He bowled with genuine pace, he was nasty, he roughed up Jonathan Trott and Paul Collingwood and he swung the ball at great speed on a pitch that clearly had bounce that visiting batsmen are not used to. We now know why he was the ICC's player of the year a few years ago.

There are one or two dismissals you may look at and pick holes in - Trott for example could have played straighter - but when you are undone by 90mph deliveries swinging into your pads that early in your innings, you have to say fair play.

Ian Bell again played beautifully and with lots of confidence. He was out chasing a wide ball, trying to move the score on as he was batting with the tail. This is the problem with batting at six. I would not have thought England would change things immediately, but Bell does look wasted there.

There is still the faintest hope for England. Ryan Harris supported Johnson but there was nothing much from everyone else. If you look at the rest of the Australian attack it is workmanlike, and lacking a spinner.

Recent history suggests that batting late on in the game at the Waca has not been a problem. We're only at the end of the second day so the pitch is still a decent one. If England have to chase 350 then they will certainly have enough time to do it. Whether they are able to do this remains to be seen.

First they have to bowl Australia out tomorrow and they will have to do it just after lunch. They need to take those seven wickets before the Aussies score another 150 runs.

However, the England bowlers look tired, which is to be expected. They put everything into yesterday and didn't expect to be bowling again this afternoon. We've had two hot days and it is hard work. That is one of the issues with playing four bowlers and it is on occasions like this that the debate over whether five bowlers should be selected returns to the fore.

It was not all positive for Australia. Skipper Ricky Ponting failed again and his determination not to walk before a review showed he had gloved a catch to Matt Prior off Steven Finn shows how desperate he is at the moment. He averages only 16 and that is only because of an unbeaten half-century at the Gabba.

Michael Clarke produced another frenetic innings, with another loose shot that brought about his downfall. If Australia lose this series, people like Clarke will be looked at very closely. But on Friday, he and others have been saved by Johnson's amazing burst.

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

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see also
Justin Langer's key moments
17 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Johnson burst ignites Australia
17 Dec 10 |  England
Bell hopeful of England fightback
17 Dec 10 |  England
Third Ashes Test in photos
17 Dec 10 |  England
Friday's Ashes gossip column
17 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Tremlett puts England in command
16 Dec 10 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
15 Dec 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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