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Aussies in for the kill against hapless Poms

Mitchell Starc claimed the crucial wicket of James Vince late in the final session.
Mitchell Starc claimed the crucial wicket of James Vince late in the final session.

NATHAN Lyon was pilloried for saying this Ashes series may end careers but he might prove to be Nostradamus with Australia set to reclaim the Ashes.

England have only one hope - and that's the patchy rainfall that abandoned play early last night and threatens to impact again on day five.

However, Australia are just six wickets away from lifting the urn and confident they have more than enough time to seal the deal, with England 4-132 and still 127 runs from making the home side bat again.

An unplayable delivery from Mitchell Starc that deviated 42cm to cannon into James Vince stumps gave a taste of what's in store if the elements allow Australia to get up a full head of steam.

England were on their knees at the WACA with the futures of star players Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson hanging by a thread.

Lyon bamboozled Joe Root with his very first ball to also leave the England skipper with plenty to digest on the impact the captaincy is having on his batting.

Graeme Swann has said Root isn't coping with the pressures of captaincy.

England cricket appears at a major crossroads and if Australia can execute a second Ashes whitewash in as many tours down under it would be a damning indictment on the ECB system and culture.

Australian spearhead Josh Hazlewood - who took a superb caught and bowled to continue Cook's horror run - believes breaking the current Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow partnership will expose England's vulnerable tail to a quick kill.

 

Steve Smith can taste victory.
Steve Smith can taste victory.

 

"We've looked at (the forecast) a little bit. There's just some rain tomorrow morning. Hopefully that doesn't hang around too long and we can get the best part of two sessions in," Hazlewood said.

"Their tail feel very uncomfortable and we saw (first innings) they didn't want to be out there and we'll continue to use the same method that we have been.

"We saw with Mitch Johnson last year it just kept snowballing as the series went on. We'll obviously continue to do that and hopefully have the same results."

Australia earlier nailed down their highest ever score against England on home soil - a mammoth 9(dec)-662 - with Tim Paine and Pat Cummins putting on a telling 93-run partnership to set up a 259-run lead.

Michael Vaughan says it's time England started planning for the future and what their next Ashes tour might look like in four years time.

Cook has looked a shadow of his former self in his 150th Test match and despite his determination to play on, the wolves are now at the door.

An average of 13 this series and a highest score of 37 from his past 10 Test innings is becoming a serious worry for an England side desperate for good starts.

The drums are beating even louder for Broad - the fallen Ashes pantomime villain who appears all but out of steam.

Josh Hazlewood took a screamer to dismiss Alastair Cook.
Josh Hazlewood took a screamer to dismiss Alastair Cook.

Broad finished with bruising figures of 0-142 - the equal 12th worst performance by a fast bowler in the history of Test match cricket.

Anderson ultimately finished with four wickets, but like in Adelaide, it was too little too late by the time he found his mark.

In the day-night Test, Anderson at least ripped into Steve Smith with the verbals, but he was as quiet as a church mouse at the WACA - less inclined to get in the face of opponents when the ball isn't swinging and his team are behind on the scoreboard.

Hazlewood heaped further pressure on Cook (14) thanks to a blinding caught-and-bowled grab where he somehow pulled in a return drive low to his right as the big fast bowler dived at the end of his follow-through.

Hazlewood feasted on the crack that had opened up down the Lillee-Marsh end at the WACA and his own keeper Tim Paine was there to take the first offering, with Mark Stoneman the first victim as he edged behind for just 3.

England found themselves 3-60 with rain their only potential savior after Australia nailed down their highest ever score against England on home soil - a mammoth 9(dec)-662.

Run-scoring machines Steve Smith (239) and Mitchell Marsh (181) weren't able to continue the fun on day four, but Tim Paine (49 not out) and Pat Cummins (41) took the reins.

Australia's extraordinary batting performance eclipsed the 8-659 they scored against England at the SCG in 1946 when Bradman made a Smithesque 234.

England's bowling performance was an unmitigated disaster, with Broad, Anderson, Overton and Moeen Ali all going for 100 runs each - only the fourth quartet in history to be consigned to such punishment.

Anderson is 35 and Broad 31, and while they might have another burst left on home soil where the ball swings, there must be serious doubts about whether they can be risked away from home.

Topics:  ashes josh hazlewood nathan lyon steve smith


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