England in the ascendancy
England’s decision to bowl first in Perth was vindicated in the form of a below-par Australia total on the opening day of the third Ashes Test.
The hosts were dismissed for 268 late in the evening session at the WACA, to which England replied with 29 without loss in the 12 overs possible before the close.
If Andrew Strauss’ decision to put Australia in was seen as a gamble in some quarters, his bowlers - and the ill-disciplined home batsmen - ensured it paid off in spades.
In returning figures of 3-63, Chris Tremlett claimed a wicket for each of the years he has been out of the Test side, as well as proving himself a more than able deputy for Stuart Broad.
James Anderson took 3-61 despite failing to match the standards he set in Adelaide, while Graeme Swann picked up a second victim and ended a frustrating last-wicket stand of 35 by having Ben Hilfenhaus taken at short-leg.
It could be argued that England are one step closer to the win which would see them retain the Ashes, but they will nevertheless be disappointed to have allowed Australia to engineer a recovery of sorts as conditions eased.
Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin and, less predictably, Mitchell Johnson hit half-centuries to help repair the damage caused by their slide to 69 for five, on a pitch green enough to persuade Australia to select five seamers and no frontline spinner in a side boasting four changes in personnel.
While not at their best, England’s bowlers made the desired early use of a surface offering noticeable - though far from excessive - pace and bounce and, most importantly, sideways movement.
Tremlett was undoubtedly the pick of them, and a player whose fitness has let him down in the past demonstrated his new-found fortitude by bowling more overs than anyone else on a sweltering day when Anderson suffered from cramp and Steven Finn a tight calf.
There was ample swing, too, and Australia’s jittery top order had neither the temperament nor the technique to cope as they subsided amid an array of injudicious shots.
Tremlett, playing his first Test since August 2007, made an instant impact on an eventful morning that matched the pyrotechnics of Adelaide.
Australia may have avoided the fate of slumping to two for three, but not by much. Tremlett struck in his first over, following up five testing short balls at Phil Hughes with a fuller delivery which shaped back in slightly to bowl the left-hander as he played across the line.
Ponting, whose captaincy has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the innings defeat in Adelaide, can also expect censure for the stroke which brought about his downfall, following a back-of-a-length outswinger from Anderson he could comfortably have left alone.
Ordinarily, his thick edge would have flown to safety, but that would be to reckon against the athleticism of Paul Collingwood, who dived high to his right at third slip to pull off a one-handed catch that is unlikely to be bettered all winter.
On a morning that saw numerous edges, many of which did not go to hand, Michael Clarke was next to depart, caught behind fencing at a Tremlett delivery which was never in danger of threatening the stumps.
Shane Watson, who successfully referred a caught-behind decision in the first over and was put down by a leaping Strauss at first slip when he had made two, spent an hour and three quarters over his 13 before he was trapped lbw by a Steven Finn yorker. The batsman’s review confirmed the ball struck boot before bat.
Just as he had this morning, Tremlett struck in his first over of the afternoon session, encouraging Steven Smith to play away from his pad and edging to Strauss at first slip.
Hussey and Haddin, Australia’s most reliable batsmen this series, combined to good effect once more, sharing a much-needed 68-run stand for the fifth wicket that carried their side into three figures.
Compact as ever, Hussey progressed to his fifth successive score in excess of 50 against England before he was caught behind for 61 playing back to Swann, although the tourists needed to call on a video review to prove a faint outside edge.
Haddin, who lifted Swann over mid-off and then long-on in an opening over costing 10, remained positive, to the extent that he went to his half-century off just 67 balls.
However, he perished for 53 shortly after tea when a reckless drive off Anderson was smartly taken above his head by Swann at second slip, and the same bowler accounted for Ryan Harris with an outswinging yorker.
Johnson, having employed some rather agricultural sweeps to good effect in his innings of 62, pulled the expensive Finn to Anderson at square-leg, and Peter Siddle, who made an entertaining unbeaten 35, and Hilfenhaus made merry before the latter gifted Alastair Cook a simple bat-pad catch.