ENGLAND’S second-gamer Ben Stokes stands between Australia and a series-clinching win in the third Ashes Test with a day to play in Perth.
The Kiwi-born all-rounder will resume this morning at the WACA on 72 in pursuit of his maiden Test hundred.
England is 5-251 after Australia set it a target of 504 to win.
Stokes has taken the fight to the Aussies, hitting 12 fours off 96 balls.
A fourth-day result looked likely when Ryan Harris bowled Alastair Cook from the first delivery of England’s second innings.
Cook is the first player to make a golden duck in his 100th Test.
Michael Carberry (31) got a start for the second time in the match before he was out lbw to Shane Watson.
Then wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took a brilliant diving catch to remove Joe Root off Mitchell Johnson’s bowling to make it 3-76.
Star No. 4 Kevin Pietersen, for all his ability and shot-making panache, fell for 45 just when he team needed a long innings from him.
After hitting Nathan Lyon over long-on in the 38th over, Pietersen couldn’t resist another attempt in the spinner’s next over and holed out.
Carberry defended Pietersen after the 102-Test veteran played a loose shot to mid-on to get out for 19 in England’s first innings, saying it was a shot Pietersen often hits out of the ground.
Ian Bell’s shot selection could also be questioned after the middle-order gun tried an upper cut and was caught behind for 60 off the bowling of Peter Siddle. Umpire Marais Erasmus rejected Australia’s appeal but it was overturned on review.
Bell and Stokes added 99 for the fifth wicket.
The exit of Bell at 5-220 gave Australia the chance to push for victory last night, but Matt Prior was unbeaten on seven.
The ability of England’s tail to wag will be severely tested by the pitch’s variable bounce and also the injury to No. 9 Stuart Broad, who has a bruised foot.
Australia declared on 6-369 after Shane Watson (103) joined opener David Warner (112) as second-innings century-makers.
It resumed on 3-235 and blasted 134 runs in 17 overs.
Watson belted 11 fours and five sixes, moving from 52 to 100 in 28 balls.
George Bailey smashed an unbeaten 39 including a world record-equalling 28 off the final over.