Ashes: England ‘a couple of bad sessions from losing the Ashes’ says Steve Smith

Steve Smith
Australia have won only one of their last four Tests at the Waca
Australia v England, Third Ashes Test
Date: 14-18 Dec Time: 02:30 GMT Venue: The Waca, Perth
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and the BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app. Full coverage details

Australia captain Steve Smith says England are “a couple of bad sessions away from losing the Ashes” in the third Test in Perth.

England are 2-0 down and will surrender the urn if they are beaten at the Waca, where they have not won since 1978.

“We know what’s at stake,” said England skipper Joe Root. “It’s an opportunity to create history and if we do come away at 2-1, the series is wide open.”

Ashes: England ‘a couple of bad sessions from losing the Ashes’ says Steve Smith
Ashes: England ‘a couple of bad sessions from losing the Ashes’ says Steve Smith

England have named an unchanged team from the side beaten in Adelaide.

Thursday’s match will be the last Ashes Test at the Waca, with major matches set to move to the new Perth Stadium.

England not only have a poor record at the Waca, but Australia also sealed their last three home Ashes wins in Western Australia – in 2002-03, 2006-07 and 2013-14.

“We’re playing at a ground we’ve traditionally played pretty good cricket at,” said Smith, whose side won the first two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide.

“We’re confident going into this week, but England will come back hard. The message to the boys is to not get complacent, to keep playing hard, aggressive cricket and to do the basics well.”

Though the Waca is an Ashes stronghold for Australia, the home side have won only one of their past four matches here, losing twice.

“I genuinely believe that we have a really good opportunity here,” said Root.

“We know exactly how we need to go about things. It’s about putting that into practice and guys delivering when it really matters.”

Bairstow promoted as England unchanged

Jonny Bairstow
Bairstow scored 57 runs over two innings in the first Test and 51 runs in the second at number seven

England are unchanged from the team that lost in the day-night Test in Adelaide, meaning pace bowler Craig Overton keeps his place.

The tourists have, however, tweaked their batting order with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow moving above Moeen Ali to number six.

“The fundamentals of how we go about the game are the key thing,” said Root.

“We have to make sure we’re clear on how to take on their bowlers, these conditions and give ourselves the best opportunity to make a big score.”

Despite being ahead in the series, Australia could make a change, with out-of-form batsman Peter Handscomb under pressure from all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, a Western Australia player.

“We’ll decide if we need an extra bowling option or not,” said Smith. “If we do go down that route, it’s nothing to do with anyone’s batting.

“The stats suggest that bowlers have had a heavy workload on this wicket. That is the way we’re leaning at the moment.”

The pitch

Graphic showing Ashes Test results at the Waca - England wins: 1, Australia wins: 9, Draws: 3

England’s batsmen have historically struggled at the Waca, traditionally a pitch of pace and bounce.

Since 1986, the visitors have made only two totals in excess of 300, but recently the pitch is thought to have slowed.

Last year, South Africa made 540 in beating Australia and the previous year, the hosts totalled 559-9 declared against New Zealand, who then piled on 624 in a drawn game.

“There’s been a lot of talk about how it might not be as quick as history suggests,” said Root.

“It can change quite drastically over the course of a few days. On the first morning we’ll have a good indication of how it’s going to play.”

‘We can’t keeping making mistakes’

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England ‘behave like students’ off the field – Vaughan

England’s preparations for this match were once again hit by an off-field issue, with Ben Duckett withdrawn from the tour match at the weekend and suspended from England Lions’ remaining fixtures for pouring a drink over James Anderson.

That came after Ben Stokes was arrested for his part in an altercation outside a Bristol nightclub in September and Jonny Bairstow was accused of “headbutting” Australia’s Cameron Bancroft at the beginning of the tour.

England head coach Trevor Bayliss said that he “might have to review who is in the team if off-field behaviour does not improve”.

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A lot of hype about England’s discipline – Jonny Bairstow

“If guys keep making silly mistakes then there has to be consequences,” Root told BBC Sport.

“Trevor is rightly hacked off and is about us making sure we go about things in the right manner for the rest of this trip.

“I’m a little bit disappointed in the way things have turned out, but there’s no point dwelling on it.

“It’s important we move forward as a team and give ourselves the best chance of winning this match.”

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