sport

Australia close in on victory

England finally showed some rare fight with the bat in the Ashes but they were still left facing defeat in the third Test in Perth.

A comedy of errors in the field from the tourists meant Australia were able to declare in the morning session with a lead of 503 - the first time a side has been asked to chase over 500 in three successive Tests.

And it seemed Australia wouldn't need long to wrap up the victory they needed to regain the urn as Alastair Cook fell to the first ball of the innings.

Michael Carberry (31) and Joe Root (19) settled the nerves, though, while Kevin Pietersen (45), Ian Bell (60) and Ben Stokes (72no) went on the offensive.

Bell and Stokes put on 99 for the fifth wicket - England's second highest partnership on the tour - before Australia struck late in the day to leave the tourists on 251-5, still 253 adrift of the unlikeliest of wins.

Century

No Test team has successfully chased down more than 418 for victory - with the West Indies having upset the odds against the Australians in Antigua in 2003 - and few would bet on England eclipsing that on day five.

Shane Watson's century in the morning session meant the hosts were able to declare on 369-6 and leave England the unlikely total to chase down.

Already 369 ahead at the start of play, Australia captain Michael Clarke was able to put England into bat in the first session after seeing his side add 134 runs in 17 overs.

Watson set the tone in the opening over, launching Graeme Swann for two fours and a six. Another over from the off-spinner cost 22, as England had no answer to the big-hitting all-rounder.

Having resumed on 29 not out he helped himself to 72 runs from a mere 46 deliveries, six of them coming when Tim Bresnan clung on to a spectacular catch at long-off only to then fall back over the rope as he came back down to earth.

After smashing 11 fours and five sixes Watson's innings came to a rather embarrassing end, run out by bowler Bresnan's throw to the non-striker's end straight after Ian Bell had dropped him. The fielder had already turned around in frustration before realising a wicket had fallen after all.

By then Steve Smith had already departed for 15, caught in the deep by sub fielder Jonny Bairstow - on the field for the injured Stuart Broad - off the bowling of Ben Stokes (2-82), while Bresnan dismissed Brad Haddin for five.

However the carnage carried on right up until the point Clarke called his two batsmen in, George Bailey equalling the Test record of 28 in a single over - with James Anderson on the receiving end.

Disastrous

England's hopes of batting out for a draw suffered a disastrous start when Cook was cleaned up first ball by a beauty from Ryan Harris that left him late and clipped the top of off stump.

Carberry and Root rallied briefly, but neither were able to build on solid starts. The former fell lbw to Watson, while the latter was spectacularly caught behind by a diving Haddin off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson.

Pietersen looked like he could finally deliver the innings of substance England had been crying out for as he raced along to 45. However his attempts to smash Nathan Lyon out of the attack failed as he picked out Harris on the long-on boundary.

Stokes and Bell, though, continued to play positively with both batsmen playing an array of shots around the ground. Bell, in particular, showed glimpses of his best form as he brought up his half-century off 81 balls.

However his classy innings came to an end when he was adjudged to have feathered an edge behind off Siddle, with Bell eventually given out via DRS to spark wild celebrations among the Australian players.

Stokes registered his maiden Test half-century a ball later and continued to look confident at the crease - even protecting the out-of-sorts Matt Prior (7no) from the strike.