It has been 10 years since England’s last fourth Test victory in Perth, and yet at least they will have hope for a long, prosperous Test match programme in Australia this winter if they can win the one-day tri-series between the three teams on Sunday. Alastair Cook’s team bowled Australia out for 262 as Adam Lyth hit his second century of the tournament, Joe Root passed 1,000 Test runs for the year with a classy contribution of 86 from 127 balls, and England romped home by 49 runs.
In another dramatic English twist of fate it was left to Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes to see them home. After Buttler missed out on a one-day half-century, he made up for it with 77 from 67 balls, including six sixes, while Stokes was made to bowl just over 12 overs after he was controversially left out of the match, but he took his one wicket for just 16 runs at a cost of 23.
There was real promise in this England batting order and hopes of something more positive than what would have been a comfortable win going into the final day. Their first 50s came in the same session, thanks to the persistence of the captain, who never tends to ease on the throttle, and especially an innings of 102 from Lyth, who was inevitably relieved when his century was followed by a terse, “Lodgers?”
He and Mark Stoneman (50) led the fighting effort as England set about plundering the rate. Stokes was was, after a slow start, steely to the end, finding cracks in the pitch but still he needed some ducking when Mohammad Abbas hit him on the arm with a wide delivery before belting him over extra cover for four.
With England happy to give Pakistan an early lifeline, Buttler and Stokes took full advantage. Buttler batted slowly but compellingly, taking full advantage of the pitch against a friendly attack. He also has the knack of holding up the scoreboard, by whacking his first four off the last ball of the sixth over of the match.
Australia’s off-spinner Ali trapped Stokes leg before wicket first ball, attempting to knock him over. On a nightmarish night for Joe Root, the England captain’s luck ran out when he faced a delivery outside off stump, and he couldn’t get over the low bounce.
Despite what they might say, it is hard to see them overcoming that loss of momentum. The middle order must have been exhausted even by the interval, and England were relegated to three fielders out in the outfield when Marnus Labuschagne made a half-century. Chris Woakes’ struggles with the ball, in particular a dinked wide off his third ball, are bound to be of concern to his management.
Buttler’s unbeaten 77 off 67 balls, 11 fours and four sixes, was much better than England’s actual total in the first innings, and he also provided some ammunition to the Australian attack, by refusing to give into tired limbs.
He was finally caught by Umar Akmal from the bowling of Zulfiqar Babar with seven overs to go. Those familiar surmises of a slow finish were mistaken.
There was nothing at all in Perth for Root to be concerned about at the end, as he had shared in an unbroken opening stand of 119 with Cook from only 100 balls.