PERTH, Dec 17: Australia had one hand on the Ashes at stumps on the fourth day of the third Test against England in Perth today.
Trailing by 259 runs in the first innings after Australia declared at 662 for nine, England were 132 for four when stumps was called early after a rain-interrupted final session, with Dawid Malan on 28 and Jonny Bairstow on 14, still behind by 127 runs.
The home side lead the five-Test series 2-0 and a win in the last-ever Ashes Test to be played at the WACA Ground would see them regain the urn.
England�s best hopes of staying alive would appear to rest with the weather, and there was a loud cheer from England fans when the forecast rain first arrived just minutes before tea.
More rain is forecast on the final day, although it is only predicted to be a problem before lunchtime.
The tourists� second innings got off to a dismal start when opener Mark Stoneman was caught behind from the bowling of Josh Hazlewood for just three in the second over.
Alastair Cook�s woes then continued when Hazlewood snared a brilliant one-handed return catch to remove him for 14, leaving the former skipper with just 83 runs at 13.83 for the series.
Captain Joe Root was the third man out, to spinner Nathan Lyon�s first ball of the innings, caught at first slip by his Australian counterpart Steve Smith for 14 off the glove of wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
James Vince looked impressive in making 55, but there was little he could do when a Mitchell Starc delivery hit a crack and deviated sharply to crash into his stumps as England slumped to 100 for four.
Earlier Australia scored their highest Ashes total at home and fifth-highest against England.
Although Smith added just 10 to his overnight total before being dismissed for 239, his innings was the cornerstone of the massive total.
Smith was adjudged leg before wicket on review after James Anderson�s confident shout was turned down by on-field umpire Chris Gaffaney.
The review ended a chanceless 399-ball epic innings which included 30 fours and one six.
The other overnight batsman, Mitchell Marsh, had departed a few minutes earlier � failing to add to his 181 when he was trapped leg before wicket by Anderson to end a 301-run partnership with Smith.
Mitchell Starc was run out for one as they lost three wickets for 12 runs.
England 1st innings: 403
Australia 1st innings: C Bancroft lbw b Overton 25, D Warner c Bairstow b Overton 22, U Khawaja lbw b Woakes 50, S Smith lbw b Anderson 239, S Marsh c Root b Ali 28, M Marsh lbw b Anderson 181, T Paine not out 49, M Starc run out 1, P Cummins lbw b Anderson 41, N Lyon c Ali b Anderson 4. Extras: (b4, lb16, nb1, w1) 22. Total: (for nine wickets; 179.3 overs) 662. Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-55, 3-179, 4-248, 5-549, 6-560, 7-561, 8-654, 9-662. Bowling: Anderson 37.3-9-116-4, Broad 35-3-142-0, Woakes 41-8-128-1, Overton 24-1-110-2, Ali 33-4-120-1, Root 3-0-13-0, Malan 6-1-13-0. England 2nd innings: A Cook c and b Hazlewood 14, M Stoneman c Paine b Hazlewood 3, J Vince b Starc 55, J Root c Smith b Lyon 14, D Malan batting 28, J Bairstow batting 14. Extras: (lb4) 4. Total: (for four wickets; 38.2 overs) 132. Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-29, 3-60, 4-100. Bowling: Starc 10-3-32-1, Hazlewood 9-3-23-2, M Marsh 3-1-14-0, Cummins 8.2-2-31-0, Lyon 8-3-28-1. � AFP