Ashes: Australia on verge of levelling series in Perth
Two wickets for Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris in the final session of play put Australia on the verge of victory on day three in Perth.
Mike Hussey’s hundred provided the cornerstone of the Australian innings of 309 all out, setting England 391 to win.
Chris Tremlett took 5-89 as England reduced the potential lead but the visitors were still paying for their poor first-innings total.
Johnson, Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus shared the spoils to leave England on 81-5 at the close and staring at defeat.
Shane Watson was the first man to depart in the morning session, trapped in front by Tremlett and falling five runs short of a hundred – the Australia opener once again failing to convert after passing fifty.
Steve Smith and Hussey shared a decent partnership before Tremlett struck again, forcing Smith to glove a sharp short ball to Matt Prior down the leg side.
Tremlett then accounted for Brad Haddin, his delivery bouncing of a length to take the wicket-keeper’s inside edge before cannoning off his thigh onto the stumps.
Despite the breakthroughs Hussey stood imperious at the other end as he raced towards his hundred.
Johnson drove Paul Collingwood to cover before Harris hauled out to deep mid wicket off Steven Finn as England ran through the tail.
Peter Siddle offered late support to allow Hussey to reach his hundred but fell to give James Anderson his 200th Test wicket. Tremlett dismissed the centurion soon after to complete his maiden Test match five-wicket haul.
With the Australian seamers finding good swing the England reply began cautiously. Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook both hit early boundaries but a change of ends for Harris saw him dismiss Cook lbw for 13.
Johnson showed his first innings display was no one off when he removed Strauss for 15, Ricky Ponting taking the slip catch to leave England on the ropes.
A brief recovery from Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen then steadied the innings. Pietersen called for a change of bat but then played loosely away from his body and edged to Watson off Hilfenhaus.
With ten minutes remaining Johnson moved one across Trott who edged to Ponting for 31. He dropped the initial catch but fortunately parried it into the air for Haddin to collect. The drop hurt Ponting who had to leave the field for treatment.
England employed the night watchman in Anderson but it was Collingwood who faced the last over and edged Harris to Smith to leave Australia in complete control and on the brink of levelling the series.