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Perth just the place to grind Poms into dust

England will meet their Waterloo when Mitchell Johnson comes steaming in from the Members End
England will meet their Waterloo when Mitchell Johnson comes steaming in from the Members End
Photo Source: Getty Images

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It's fitting that this aging, out-of-sorts England side, the tormentors of Australia over the past three Ashes series, will meet their Waterloo at the WACA Ground on Friday.

More than a few touring parties have been broken by the inhospitable pace and bounce of Perth's sun-bleached arena. It has been the scene of some famous spells of fast bowling, none more so than the 7-1 taken by West Indian windmill Curtly Ambrose. Aptly, the last time the Poms visited, man-of-the-moment Mitchell Johnson found a way out of his funk to lead Australia to their only victory of the 2010-11 Ashes series.

The left-arm quick wasn't even trusted with the new ball after falling to pieces at the Gabba, but on day two he ripped through England's top order with a spell of 4-19 in nine overs (and he would end the innings with figures of 6-38). He was man-of-the-match in Perth and kept his place for the third Test at the MCG, where he bled 4.62 runs per over and fretted his way to figures of 2-134 in England's only innings. 'Typical Mitch' was the refrain as the Poms won by an innings and 157 runs.

If Johnson is still a confidence player, then he is about to blow England off the pitch in Perth. In an inspired second coming, the left-armer has taken 17 wickets at an average of 12.70 so far this series. Worryingly for England, he is in the form of his career heading into his home Test. He is going to be buoyed by the prospect of winning the Ashes off his own back, with his city behind him, and with England's bats trembling at the striker's end.

If Johnson could extract pace and bounce out of Adelaide's lifeless deck, a strip the other quicks toiled on, imagine the possibilities of him slinging them into the WACA trampoline. He'll be unplayable when he tires of searching for an edge and starts dropping them in short. Stuart Broad in particular is going to cop a brutal working over. He might want to skip the quinoa and cranberry breakfast bar before he goes out to bat, because his stomach will end up in his throat if Mitch is in a mood.

If this all sounds a little bloodthirsty, it's because this series has taken on the vernacular of war. The English tourists (and even some Aussies) have been taken aback by the ferocity of the hosts. Australia is settling the score after three straight Ashes losses, including a tour of England earlier this year in which they were booed, mocked and set up to fail on wickets doctored to suit Graeme Swann. The fans have sensed this and adopted the same anger; as a nation, we're venting our frustrations.

We don't expect any different from the third Test for two reasons: the series is still alive and the forecast is uncomfortably warm. The Bureau of Meteorology is tipping top temperatures of 38, 39 and 37 degrees for the first three days of the Test. Anyone who has ever lived there knows that Perth people tend to get a little standoffish after a few hours in that kind of sun.

The ECB wasn't pleased with the atmosphere at the Gabba. They're not going to find much in the way of sociable behaviour at the WACA either. The Perth crowd is parochial to the point of jingoism, even accounting for the population of ex-pat Poms who call the city home. If the Aussies bowl on day one, Johnson will be propelled to the popping crease not just by the Fremantle Doctor, but by the chorus of Aussie fans baying for blood.

For better or worse, it is only once Australia has reclaimed the Ashes and put this sorry England side out of its misery that the fire will go out of the series. Don't expect Perth to roll out the welcome mats while the urn is still up for grabs, and don't expect Perth to sit quietly while their local boy made good is out there throwing down thunderbolts. In the vernacular of war, this is England's last stand. That's no time for mercy.

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