David Warner punished a depleted and dispirited England with a brilliant century to help drive Australia to 235 for three and a dominant lead of 369 after the third day of the third Ashes test on Sunday.
The hosts reached stumps with Shane Watson,who had made 29 not out,and Steve Smith,unbeaten on five,at the crease and looking well on their way to a victory which would secure an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
England’s hopes of keeping the series alive by avoiding defeat at the WACA had all but melted away in the fierce morning heat when they were skittled for 251 in their first innings.
They plummeted even further when their best bowler Stuart Broad was taken to hospital at lunch for scans on an injured foot,which will prevent him from bowling for the remainder of the match even if he might bat again.
“I don’t think we could be in a better position,that’s for sure,” said Chris Rogers,who shared an opening partnership of 157 with Warner.
“Today was an amazing day. Probably as good a day as we’ve had in the Ashes so far.”
Warner took full advantage and,revelling in the lack of pressure afforded him by another superb performance by his bowlers,bludgeoned his way to his fifth test century in 127 balls with 16 fours and one six.
The 27-year-old brought up the milestone by cutting Graeme Swann for a boundary and celebrated with an extravagant leap into the air and a flurry of bat pointing towards the home dressing room.
It was the opener’s second hundred of the series and a sixth by an Australian batsman to none from the tourists,whose entire team have been outscored by Warner,Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin.
England,a pale imitation of the side that won the home Ashes series 3-0 earlier this year,had their chances to stop his progress but wicketkeeper Matt Prior missed two stumping opportunities when the batsman was on 13 and 89.
“The heat and being so far behind,it takes its toll,” said Rogers. “It’s almost they realised perhaps that a victory is out of their grasp. From there you get a bit defensive and someone like Davey is going to take advantage of that.”
England finally had their man for 112 when Warner holed out to Ben Stokes at mid-on attempting to smash Swann for a second huge six in one over.
Rogers scored his fourth test half century at a more pedestrian pace before being caught for 54 by Michael Carberry at point off the bowling of Tim Bresnan.
“He makes me look a bit stupid at times,” Rogers said of Warner. “It’s not that easy out there,so for him to be playing the way he is – I don’t think anyone can play as well as he is at the moment.
“It’s unbelievable and takes the pressure off me.”
Australia captain Clarke departed for 23 as the evening shadows crept across the sunbaked ground,bowled through the gate by Stokes.
The wickets were rare high points on a miserable day for England,who had resumed in the morning on 180 for four in reply to Australia’s first innings 385.
It was not much of a chase,though,and they lost their last six wickets for the addition of just 71 runs as Mitchell Johnson,Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle reprised their aggressive but disciplined pace assault.
Ian Bell was out leg before for 15 from the third ball of the third over and his overnight partner Stokes followed for 18 soon afterwards to give Johnson his first victim in more than 40 overs of play.
Prior (eight) was caught behind to give Siddle his second wicket and Broad (five) lasted 23 minutes before he was dismissed lbw by Johnson (2-62) with a full delivery that smacked into his boot.
That dismissal took on an extra dimension after lunch when Broad failed to come out to field having been sent off to a local hospital to have an X-ray.
Harris (3-48) had Bresnan caught behind for 21 to take the first wicket with the new ball and Siddle finished with 3-36 after James Anderson (two) spooned one to George Bailey at short leg to bring an end to the innings.
“It’s a bad one,there’s no hiding away from that,” said Broad.
“We came here this morning knowing that we had to get close to Australia,and believing we could,but losing those three wickets before the new ball was obviously very disappointing.”