England remain on the brink

Blackpool Citizen: Joe Root, right, became the third England batsman to be dismissed during Monday's play Joe Root, right, became the third England batsman to be dismissed during Monday's play

England appeared on course to lose the Ashes in Perth, albeit slowly, as they tried to sustain an unlikely rearguard in defence of the urn.

Captain Alastair Cook was bowled for a golden duck as his team's mission improbable got off to a horror start at the WACA - set a world-record target of 504 to win the third Test.

A successful pursuit, after Shane Watson (103) and George Bailey had piled on England's agony to take Australia to 369 for six declared, was the only way they could stay in with any chance of a fourth successive Ashes series victory.

From 2-0 down already, retention of the urn was almost equally improbable - given England would first have to bat out more than five sessions here to salvage a stalemate.

But after the instant shock of losing their captain, to a near unplayable first delivery of the innings from Ryan Harris which beat Cook on the defence and clipped the off bail, England showed some heart to reach tea on 95 for three.

On a pitch paved by wide cracks after being baked by 100 degree heat for three days, it was near unthinkable that England could eke out their remaining wickets for another 127 overs at least.

Michael Carberry and Joe Root responded in adversity with a stand of 62 for the second wicket, until the former - for the second time in the match - was undone by a change of angle.

This time, Watson went round the wicket and pinned him lbw on off-stump.

Root continued to defend stoutly until he squeezed an edge behind from a very full Mitchell Johnson delivery, brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Brad Haddin to his right.

DRS could not prolong Root's 88-ball vigil for just 19 runs, leaving Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell to close out the session.

Watson had free rein to attack on the fourth morning, and took rich advantage with a 106-ball century containing 11 fours and five sixes.

He was merciless against Graeme Swann, signalling Australia's intent by hitting the off-spinner for two fours and a six from the last three balls of the day's first over.

Swann's final over, before being diplomatically replaced by Root, was then smashed for 22 by Watson - an initial four followed by three sixes into the Prindiville Stand.

Steve Smith's wicket, caught in the leg-side deep off Ben Stokes, hinted at a modicum of respite.

But Watson, who had dominated the fourth-wicket stand of 78 in 16 overs and was on just 29 at start of play, was in the mood for more mayhem.

A direct hit by Root from mid off would have run him out for 51, and in the 90s Tim Bresnan clung on to a catch at long off only for the momentum of the ball to carry him over the rope.

Watson therefore completed his fourth Test hundred - and Australia's seventh to England's none in this series - taking just 28 balls over his second 50.

But a double-play from Bresnan's first delivery with the second new ball brought a bizarre end to Watson's fun.

Bell dropped a miscued skier in the off-side only for the ball to drop within Bresnan's reach in his follow-through, from where he threw down the stumps with Watson still mid-pitch.

There was still time for more haplessness in the field from England, and Bailey to club James Anderson for a world record-equalling 28 in an over, before Michael Clarke ordered the declaration.

Meanwhile, Stuart Broad will be able to bat if necessary in England's second innings, after scans on his sore right foot revealed no break.

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