Perth - Rookie Ben Stokes has kept England's faint hopes alive with his maiden
Test half-century as the visitors fought to save the Ashes series
against a rampant Australia Monday.
Set an improbable 504 to win,
England were 251 for five at stumps on day four, still 252 runs behind
with just five wickets in hand on a heavily cracked Perth pitch.
playing in just his second Test, was providing resistance on 72, with
wicketkeeper Matt Prior on seven and all of England's top order back in
Australia will be heavily favoured to mop up
England's tail on the final day and regain the famous Ashes urn for the
first time since 2007 after their big wins in Brisbane and Adelaide.
But senior England batsman Ian Bell said all hope was not yet lost.
"We are still hanging in there, that is the important thing," Bell said.
"We need to take tomorrow as deep as we can and keep playing some shots.
"The two guys that are out there now need to bat until lunch and we need to keep fighting."
Bell conceded Australia had outplayed England in all facets on the game so far in the series.
"We are hugely disappointed and we haven't shown anyone the kind of cricket that we can potentially play," he said.
"Hats off to Australia, they have batted better than us, they've caught better than us and they have bowled better than us."
Shane Watson, who thrashed his fourth Test century earlier in the day,
said the Australians were trying not to think how close the Ashes were
away, but were extremely confident with the new ball just 13 overs away.
"This is a special moment for everyone in the Australian team, to be in the position that we are," he said.
"But we know that the English are always going to fight until the end."
of the lingering optimism for England dried up after tea, when Kevin
Pietersen again fell to a rash shot and then Bell was given out on a
successful decision review by the home side.
After a catastrophic
day for the tourists on Sunday, when they conceded a big lead to the
Australians, things only got worse on day four.
Watson and George
Bailey humiliated the England attack before Australia declared on 369
for six, making England the first team to be set a target of more than
500 in three successive Tests.
England's chase got off to a
disastrous start when captain Alastair Cook fell for a golden duck, the
first of his 100-Test career, from the first ball of their second
Cook, clean-bowled by a beauty from Ryan Harris, also
became the first player to suffer the ignominy of a first-ball duck in
their centenary match.
Fellow opener Michael Carberry again looked
solid, but was trapped lbw by Shane Watson for 31, while Joe Root
defended grimly for 125 minutes before being caught behind off Mitchell
Johnson for 19.
Root called for a review but it showed a clear edge through to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who took a fine diving catch.
looked in good touch in cruising to 45, but yet again fell victim to a
rush of blood as he advanced down the wicket to spinner Nathan Lyon and
tried to loft him down the ground for six, as he had done in the
Instead, he got under the ball and hit it high to long-off, where Harris remained composed and took a safe catch.
and Stokes set about trying to rescue the cause, putting on 99 for the
fifth wicket before Bell, on 60, was adjudged caught behind on the
evidence of the "snickometer" audio technology.
Erasmus initially turned down the appeal, but Australia's decision to
risk its second decision review paid off when "snicko" revealed an edge
as Bell flashed at a short ball outside off stump.
for England was the batting of Stokes, who played some fine drives and
looked undaunted by the pressure. By stumps he had faced 96 balls,
hitting 12 boundaries.
Earlier in the day, Australia declared
their second innings at 369 for six after fireworks from Watson, who
took just 40 balls to race from his overnight score of 29 to his fourth
Test century, and Bailey, who equalled Brian Lara's Test record with 28
runs off one over -- from Jimmy Anderson.
With the injured Stuart
Broad absent from the attack, England missed three catches as Australia
belted 134 runs in 17 overs, with Watson making 103 and Bailey an