England saved by rain as Ashes innings defeat looms

Australia's Mitchell Marsh leaves the ground after being dismissed on the second ball of the day from England during the fourth day of their Ashes cricket test match in Perth, Australia, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Trevor Collens)

PERTH, Australia (AP) England is facing an innings defeat to Australia in the third Ashes cricket test on the crumbling WACA pitch Sunday.

Facing a deficit of 259 runs, England’s day was saved by rain as it finished on 132-4 with Dawid Malan 28 not out and Jonny Bairstow 14 not out taking the game into the fifth and final day.

England needs to survive 95 overs over three sessions Monday to stop Australia from reclaiming the Ashes.

England is 127 runs short of making Australia bat again and save the ignominy of an innings defeat.

Australia leads the three-match series 2-0 following wins in Brisbane and Adelaide by 10 wickets and 120 runs, respectively.

The cracks claimed an unlucky victim in James Vince (55) when a Mitchell Starc delivery darted from leg to uproot the right hander’s off stump.

Vince held the innings together for two hours while the rest fell around him, and hit 12 fours off 95 balls.

Vince’s dismissal is a sign of the difficulty England will face on a surface that is notorious for cracking and producing disconcerting bounce.

After losing both openers and reduced to 29-2, England then slumped to 60-3 and 100-4 when Vince was dismissed.

England’s first innings batting heroes Malan and Bairstow weathered the Australian pace attack for over an hour to fight another day.

”We’ve got to have belief that we can save the series and get over the line tomorrow,” said Vince.

”It’s going to be tough. I’m sure there’s going to be some good balls flying around out there, but these two (Malan and Bairstow) especially showed in the first innings that they can occupy the crease for a long time, so hopefully they get off to a good start in the morning.”

Batting the second time after Australia had hit 662-9 declared, its highest total in Ashes tests at home, England was reduced to 29-2 as fast bowler Josh Hazlewood (2-23) made inroads.

Hazlewood had Mark Stoneman (3) caught behind, and then grabbed a one-handed return catch to dismiss Alastair Cook (14) to remove the former skipper and extend his miserable form with the bat.

Cook, the senior batsman, has managed 83 runs in six innings, averaging 18.33.

Then, skipper Joe Root fell for 14 as he tried to hit offspinner Nathan Lyon’s first delivery and edged to slip Steve Smith via wicketkeeper Tim Paine’s gloves.

”It was just one of these that hit the crack and did a fair bit,” Hazlewood said of Vince’s dismissal. ”That angle from him (Starc) around the wicket to the right hander is not bad.

”You only need a couple to straighten and you’re in the game. It’s pretty simple method . there is not much out there to aim at than that crack.”

Earlier, Australia lost three wickets after resuming the day on 549-4 but wicketkeeper Tim Paine, 41 not out, and Pat Cummins, 36 not out, continued the assault on the England bowlers with an undefeated 82-run stand for the eighth wicket to extend Australia’s lead.

Smith (239) and Mitchell Marsh (181) shared 301 runs for the fifth wicket to provide the backbone of Australia’s 662-9 declared which now ranks sixth highest in Ashes history, and fourth highest in Australia between the rivals.

Swing bowler James Anderson returned 4-116, including 2-6 in an 11-ball spell to remove Marsh and then Smith – both trapped lbw – after Australia resumed the day on 549-4.

If Australia wins, England’s first innings of 403 will be the highest total for any losing side at the WACA since India made 402 and lost by 2 wickets here in December 1977.