Perth has already played a significant role in England’s tour. Not in a cricketing sense, unfortunately, but as the home for two particularly foolish incidents involving Jonny Bairstow and Ben Duckett. Duckett is the latest England player to do something stupid in a bar, though that has been unnecessarily overplayed for an individual not in the senior team.
England are either already in crisis or on the brink of one depending on who you ask. Visiting the WACA – where Australia almost never lose – is not exactly what Trevor Bayliss and Andrew Strauss need right now. The hope, though, is that playing cricket might stop the questions about off-field embarrassments.
England sit 2-0 down in the Ashes, with a whitewash far more likely than retaining the urn. The hosts to win the series 5-0 is at 9/4. Adelaide was meant to be England’s best chance in the series, but a poor first couple of days left them with too much ground to make up. Thoughts of a heroic Day Five victory were slashed as the tourists crumbled.
Craig Overton was the sole bright spark from the first two Tests. Chris Woakes was improved in Adelaide, too, with the aid of some pink ball swing. Australia again made England pay when they got in, and England threw wickets away. While their backup bowlers were better, the spin bowling duel was barely recognisable as a contest.
Shaun Marsh, whose selection was met with widespread mockery, was the man who pinned England to the ground in the day/night Test. The veteran is at 22/25 to score over 29.5 runs in the first innings.
England’s batting was fragile at Adelaide. In part poor judgement, in part brilliance from the Australian bowlers, it has left England still waiting for their first centurion of the series. Bayliss was clear that 50s and 60s do not win Tests in Australia, and that has been what has really hurt England so far. The price of 4/5 on England not to score a first innings century is a solid one.
The Perth track has slowed a bit from the frightful days of the 1980s. Given England’s struggles against the short ball already, though, the extra assistance should make Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood even more threatening. Cummins – who I think has been the bowler of the series to date – is at 9/2 to be top bowler in the first innings.
Alastair Cook has been the voice of maturity in the build-up to the match. Calls for him to be dropped or moved to number three are silly despite his poor form. The 11/10 price on the Essex man to score a fifty in either innings is a very good one. He will come good, he always does, and the extra bounce at the WACA should help him.
I don’t see England turning this series around. A whitewash feels almost inevitable after the Adelaide defeat, and off-field distractions are only strengthening my pessimism. With even less lateral movement, England are facing a battle to take 20 wickets, and their batting looks incapable of posting a 400-plus score. I like the look of this to finish on Day 4, Session 1 at 13/1.
TIP: Australia to win the Test @ 13/25
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*