England make inroads but Australia firmly ahead on deteriorating pitch

Lunch Australia 7 for 643 (Paine 41*, Cummins 36*) lead England 403 by 240 runs
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On the third day at the WACA, England managed one wicket in 90 overs; on the fourth day, they plundered three wickets in the first five overs. Yet despite preventing Mitchell Marsh from reaching a double-century, and Steven Smith from posting a 250, England still found themselves in the field at lunch on day four as Australia batted on and on, passing 600 an extending their lead to 240 runs. And worryingly for England, cracks in the pitch were opening up significantly.

The early wickets of Marsh, Smith and Mitchell Starc gave England hope of running through Australia’s lower order, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins refused to budge, and by lunch had compiled a partnership that was worth 82 runs. Paine was on 41, Cummins had 36, and Australia had moved on to 7 for 643, their highest Test total in nearly six years, and it seemed only a question of when Smith would declare. Rain is forecast for Sunday evening and at times on Monday, so England’s hopes of a draw are far from dead.

The morning began with Smith and Marsh sitting on a 301-run partnership, but it took only two deliveries for the stand to be broken when James Anderson nipped one back in to trap Marsh in front for 181. Smith added ten to his overnight score before he too was lbw to Anderson, for 239, to a delivery that pitched in line and straightened. Smith was given not out on field, but England’s review proved a sensible one.

Later in the same over, Mitchell Starc was run out when he called Tim Paine through for a leg-bye while England were appealing vociferously for another lbw; perhaps the appeal confused the batsmen, for both Paine and Starc found themselves halfway down the pitch while James Vince ran in from gully and whipped the bails off. Australia had gone from 4 for 549 to 7 for 561, but from there Cummins and Paine settled in for the remainder of the session.

Paine was given out lbw to Anderson but survived on review when ball-tracking showed it going over the top, and he played some fine shots throughout the rest of the session. Several deliveries from fast bowlers hit cracks in the pitch and jagged like legbreaks, which may not bode well for England’s batsmen, but Paine and Cummins survived. Also during the session, England became just the eighth team in Test history to have five bowlers all concede 100 runs in the same innings.

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