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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

David Warner could whack struggling England at the Waca

Ashes may be all over by Christmas

David Warner enjoys a breather on his way to 97 against South Africa in Perth last year
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Australia v England
BT Sport 1, 2.30am Thursday

The Australian media are gleefully portraying England as a team who show more fight on boozy nights out than they do in Ashes Test matches and the tourists are drinking in the last-chance saloon in Perth.

It'll all be over before Christmas if England succumb to an eighth consecutive defeat at the Waca and Australia, leading 2-0, are just 9-4 for a 5-0 series clean sweep.

Perth has been an unhappy hunting ground for generations of England batsmen who have found Australia's quick bowlers too hot to handle at the ground.

However, the sting has been taken out of the Waca pitches in recent years and South Africa posted 540-8 declared in the second innings last year on their way to a 177-run victory.

Those kinds of big totals are still eluding 15-4 shots England although their only individual century in the last seven Ashes Tests in Australia did come at the Waca.

Unfortunately, as the Aussies will be quick to remind England, that ton was scored by Ben Stokes, who remains unavailable for selection after being arrested on a night out in Bristol.

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The defining innings in the first two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide were gritty centuries from Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh which contrasted with the flaky 40s and 50s from England top-order batsmen.

More extravagant strokeplay can be expected at the Waca where visiting batsmen Ross Taylor (290), Kane Williamson (166), JP Duminy (141), Dean Elgar (127) and Quinton de Kock (84 and 64) have flourished in the last two years.

England's batsmen still struggle to find the right balance between survival and aggression and Australia opener David Warner could show them the way at a venue he adores.

The left-hander has had a modest start to the series, although he made an unbeaten 87 in the second innings at the Gabba – a higher score than any England player has managed in the series.

Warner's record in Perth is ominous for England's bowlers. His nine innings include 180 against India, 253 against New Zealand and 112 against England four years ago while he also scored 97 off just 100 balls against a classy South Africa attack last year. The 8-1 that he is named man of the match is well worth a bet.

Expectations are a little lower for Warner's England counterpart Mark Stoneman but he appears to have been underrated by a first-innings runs line of 22.5 with Hills.

Stoneman cashed in during the warm-up matches with scores of 85, 61, 51 and 111 and he has made starts in all four Test innings, making 53 and 27 in Brisbane and 18 and 36 in Adelaide.

He refuses to be cowed by Australia's fine new-ball attack, picks the gaps in the field and times the ball well, scoring almost half of his Test runs in boundaries.

Stoneman and the rest of England's left-handers have been tormented by the off-spin of Nathan Lyon in the first two games but conditions may be against the slow bowler in Perth.

Even Shane Warne struggled at the Waca, averaging just over three wickets per Test, and Lyon's performance make-ups in four Tests, with one point per run, ten per catch and 20 per wicket, have been 108, 97, 74 and 48 (in the defeat to South Africa last year).

He took 0-146 in the second innings against the Proteas and this looks England's best chance to knock the spinner off his perch.

D Warner to be man of the match
1pt 8-1 general
M Stoneman to score 23 or more first-innings runs
3pts 5-6 Hills
N Lyon under 100.5 performance points
2pts 5-6 bet365

The Waca hosts its final Ashes Test in this series and England won't be sad to see the back of the venue after losing on their last seven visits.

Pacy pitches are traditionally the order of the day in Perth, where Mitchell Starc has taken 21 wickets in four Tests, but the surfaces in the Sheffield Shield this season have lacked their usual spice.

The Fremantle Doctor, a stiff sea breeze that blows across the Waca in the afternoon, can unsettle visiting players but Warner has no problems in Perth, scoring 803 runs in nine innings at a strike-rate of almost 91.

Team news
All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been added to the Australia squad and could replace Peter Handscomb, with Marsh's brother Shaun moving up to number five.

Fast bowler Mark Wood made a promising impression in England's warm-up game after the Adelaide Test but Craig Overton should retain his place despite a nasty blow to the ribs on his Test debut.

Light clouds and sunny intervals for most of the match, with scattered showers possible on days four and five. Highs of 31C.

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England's batsmen struggle to find the right balance between survival and aggression and David Warner could show them the way at a venue he adores
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