December 17, 2017 / 11:30 AM / 2 years ago

Cricket: Stalwarts fail again as England's Ashes on a knife-edge

PERTH (Reuters) - The torrid form of England’s senior players showed no sign of ending on Sunday, as paceman Stuart Broad went wicketless and opener Alastair Cook’s 150th test was spoilt by another cheap dismissal on day four of the third Ashes test.

Cricket - Australia v England - Ashes test match - WACA Ground, Perth, Australia, December 17, 2017 - Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates with team mates after bowling England's James Vince during the fourth day of the third Ashes cricket test match. REUTERS/David Gray

Already 2-0 down in the series, England finished a rain-hit day at the WACA in a precarious position of 132 for four, still trailing Australia by 127 runs with an innings to spare.

Dismissed for seven in the first innings, Cook was caught and bowled for 14 by seamer Josh Hazlewood to continue a dreadful series with the bat.

The former skipper has scored only 83 runs in the series at an average of 13.83, comfortably the worst of England’s specialist batsmen.

Captain Joe Root said prior to the match that he and his senior team mates needed to lift if England were to claw their way back into the series.

“It probably will take one of the senior players to... really take it on and do something special this game,” the young captain had said.

Root himself was also unable to capitalise on starts of 20 and 14, leaving the unbeaten pair of Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow to rescue the team again after they combined in a first innings stand of 237 runs.

“If (Cook and Root) don’t score runs, you expect them next innings to score runs,” England number three James Vince told reporters after a knock of 55, having fallen to an unplayable Mitchell Starc delivery that jagged back into his stumps.

“They’ve shown over their careers that they often don’t have long periods without scoring runs.”

England have long relied on Cook and Root to lay a solid foundation, so the lack of runs from the duo has put a heavy burden on the inexperienced trio of opener Mark Stoneman, Vince and Malan.

The tourists also have struggled with their bowling.

Veteran James Anderson (4-116) battled hard but his long-time pace partner Broad finished wicketless for 142 runs on Sunday, his worst ever test bowling figures.

The 31-year-old has not collected a five-wicket haul in 22 test matches since January, 2016.

England have few other options.

Fellow seamer Craig Overton may be sidelined for the rest of the series with a broken rib, leaving right-arm seamer Jake Ball in reserve.

Ball was dropped after poor returns of 1-77 and 0-38 during the first test in Brisbane.

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The bowling concerns have also extended to all-rounder Moeen Ali, whose off-spin produced figures of 1-120 on Sunday. For the series, he has only managed three wickets at a miserable 105.33 apiece.

He has been equally ineffective with the bat, scoring just 105 runs at an average of 21.00.

The responsibility to produce “something special” that Root demanded from his senior team mates will now fall to Malan and Bairstow on day five.

Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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