David Warner salutes the crowd after another good day’s work. Photo: Tertius Pickard
Australia are on the brink of a first Test annihilation of England at the Gabba and century-maker David Warner is saying the visitors have “scared eyes” and describes Jonathan Trott’s efforts to thwart Mitchell Johnson as “pretty weak”.
Smelling blood in the Queensland twilight on Saturday, Ryan Harris and Johnson left a rattled England on their knees. Set a winning target of 561 – nearly 150 runs more than the existing world record for a fourth-innings chase – the visitors’ quixotic hopes of getting there or even hanging on, with the assistance of some extended inclement weather, were dealt a significant blow in a thrilling final hour of day three.
Australia’s position had been improved immeasurably by a 25th career hundred by their captain, Michael Clarke, and a first Ashes ton for Warner, who combined to all but bat Alastair Cook’s weary side into oblivion.
In the fading light there was more drama to come. England crashed to 2-10 in their second innings and threatened to roll over before lunch on Sunday. Opener Michael Carberry (0) was unlucky, blocking a ball from Harris only to have it go between his legs into the stumps, but Trott (9) was unnerved and undisciplined, trying to wriggle out of his funk against Johnson by clubbing the left-armer but inevitably holing out in the deep.
Cook (11 not out) was then nearly run out, and would have been done so had George Bailey not knocked a bail off before the ball arrived in his hands, but he and Kevin Pietersen (3 not out) survived until stumps. They resume on Sunday, at 2-24, still trailing by 537 and with Australia just another decent day’s play away from a 1-0 series lead.
“England are on the back foot,” Warner, who top scored with 124, said. “It does look like they’ve got scared eyes at the moment. The way that ‘Trotty’ got out today was pretty poor and pretty weak. Obviously there is a weakness there and we’re probably on top of it at the moment.”
It is little wonder the English press are dubbing the venue the “Gabbatoir”.
Australia have not been beaten here for 25 years and it has again proven a happy hunting ground.
If Clarke’s team can apply the finishing touches – and they have two more days to do so – it will be only their second win over England since 2009 and their first victory over a major nation – England, India or South Africa – in nearly two years.
Having not won a match in England in the winter, the scope of the anticipated result is a real psychological boost.
“It would be massive,” Warner said. “We were just saying before that if the Tests were back to back it would be quite tough on the English bowlers to try and back up. The boys are on a high but we’ve got to come out and get the job done tomorrow.”
Australia’s hold over Trott, who was prolific three summers ago in Australia, was evident again, with Johnson taking him on with the short ball with success late on Saturday. Trott repeatedly hooked Johnson but before long landed one down the throat of Nathan Lyon at deep square-leg.
“I think he’s got to get new sledges as well because it’s not working for him at the moment,” Warner said of Trott.
England fast bowler James Anderson defended Trott. “He’s obviously having a tough, I would say trot, at the minute,” Anderson said. “We know that he’s got a lot of character and skill and I think he’ll come out the other end.”
Anderson said England were refusing to concede defeat.
“We’ve got an opportunity now to try and show some character and fight,” he said.