Josh Hazlewood knows rain is the only hurdle Australia faces in reclaiming the Ashes in the third Test at the WACA, which is why he is desperate for early breakthroughs in the England batting line-up on the final day in Perth.
Play was abandoned on day four at the WACA shortly after 5:00pm (local time) following a series of rain stoppages, with Australia in command of England, who limped to 4-132 when the early stumps was called.
England trails Australia by 127 runs and aside from the forecast of rain on day five, the tourists are clinging to a glimmer of hope of avoiding defeat with first-innings century makers Dawid Malan (28 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (14 not out) the overnight batsmen.
Hazlewood, who claimed the opening two wickets of England’s second innings, is mindful Australia needs to strike as early as possible on the final day to give itself a chance of wrapping up the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 series lead.
“It feels pretty close. We’ve gone through the [England] tail pretty quickly in the past two games, so one or two more quickly tomorrow morning,” he told Grandstand.
Australia surprised some commentators by choosing not to declare its first innings at the lunch break on day four, instead batting until early in the second session before calling time on its opening knock at 9-662.
Hazlewood said Australia was actually looking to bat longer but the threat of rain led to captain Steve Smith to declare with a lead of 259 runs, which was earlier than he had intended.
“We probably would have batted probably a little bit longer if there was no rain around,” he said.
“But as we saw this afternoon and potentially tomorrow we probably pulled up a bit earlier than what we would have.”
Hazlewood struck in the second over of the England’s innings when he had opener Mark Stoneman caught behind by Tim Paine for 3.
The dismissal of Stoneman brought the crowd to its feet but it was the removal of Alastair Cook (14) that whipped the WACA faithful into a frenzy when he brilliantly shifted low to his right to claim a one-handed catch from his own bowling.
The rangy quick was modest when recalling his caught and bowled effort, suggesting it was not as hard as it had looked.
“The quicker they come back the easier they are sometimes,” Hazlewood said.
“The ones down low you pick up reasonably easy, I think.”
England, meanwhile, is refusing to lie down, despite the fact it looks set to relinquish the Ashes urn it won on home soil in 2015.
Fast bowler James Anderson, who earlier on day four finished with the figures of 4-116 in Australia’s first innings, said the tourists would not give up without a fight.
“We’re still fighting, we’re still in the game so to speak,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work to do but we’re going to keep believing and come tomorrow with a good attitude and show the fighting spirit that we know we’ve got in the team.”