Australia could get the Ashes for Christmas as England on verge of heavy defeat

Steve Smith celebrates his double-century (Jason O'Brien/PA)
Steve Smith celebrates his double-century (Jason O'Brien/PA)

Steve Smith and Mitch Marsh’s triple-century stand piled on the Perth misery to leave England on the brink of losing the Ashes.

Joe Root’s men mustered a solitary wicket on a grim third day at the WACA. Smith (229no) celebrated two centuries and fifth-wicket partner Marsh (181no) threatened to turn his maiden hundred into a double too on his home ground.

300-run partnership! Incredible from Smith and MMarsh #Ashes

— (@CricketAus) December 16, 2017

There was next to nothing, armed with new ball or old, that England’s bowlers could do to even slow the process as Australia powered to 549 for four and an already ominous lead of 146.

An unfamiliar forecast in these parts promises disruption from rain over the final two days, but England will still have to excel themselves to avoid going 3-0 down and losing the urn before Christmas.

Great batting, limited bowling ❌ No swing❌ No seam❌ No pace❌ No spin"You're relying on their batting unit to get bored…"@MichaelVaughan thinks today was the day that the Ashes will be staying in Australia.#ItsTheAshes

— The Ashes on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) December 16, 2017

It is simplistic to emphasise one of the above elements over the other. Smith and Marsh’s appetite for runs and England’s generic pace attack – in these conditions – gave Root precious few options. Long before stumps, he must have just been longing for the moment of respite from this very public flogging.

Shot of the day Glorious drive from Mitch Marsh and England take the second new ball: #Ashes

— (@CricketAus) December 16, 2017

Marsh was still in single-figures when he blitzed James Anderson back past him straight of mid-off for four. It was enough to convince England they should immediately take the second new ball – but it made precious little difference.

Below the belt There was more than an element of insult to injury after Root turned to his own off-spin in late afternoon, with his opposite number on an unbeaten 195 and the Australia total already an ominous 450 for four. For his trouble, fielding the very first delivery off his own bowling as Smith pushed it back to him, the ball bounced up off his wrists into an unguarded spot which would have had a box for protection had he been batting himself.

Stat of the day Steve Smith is good at cricket.#ohwhatafeeling @Toyota_Aus

— (@CricketAus) December 16, 2017

61.92 – Smith nosed ahead of Adam Voges, towards the end of the morning session, into second in the all-time list of top Test batting averages – still around 38 runs an innings behind one other compatriot, Don Bradman.

Tweet of the day Looking forward to flying home this evening ✈️ It’s not been an ideal trip for me but plenty to take from it. Can’t wait to get back to friends and family now and move forward ????????

— Ben Duckett (@BenDuckett1) December 16, 2017

What next? If it doesn’t rain, I’m afraid to say it’s #Ashes to Australia. Biggest difference in teams – pace bowlers!

— KP (@KP24) December 16, 2017

A drop of rain is forecast for Sunday. It may merely delay the inevitable, though.

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