PERTH, Dec 18 (Reuters) - With pace spearhead Mitchell Starc labouring with injury, Josh Hazlewood stepped up to lead Australia’s attack with aplomb as the hosts thrashed England at the WACA on Monday to reclaim the Ashes with two tests to spare.
Hazlewood bowled superbly to finish with 5-48 in England’s second innings as the visitors crashed to an innings and 41-run defeat before tea on day five of the third Ashes test at the WACA.
Australia have often relied on Starc to set the tone with fierce pace and swing, but with the left-armer carrying a heel problem, it was Hazlewood’s metronomic line and length that proved the difference on Monday.
Having dismissed England’s openers for a combined 17 runs on day four, Hazlewood required just one delivery to make the first breakthrough of the morning.
A good length ball stayed low and crashed into wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow’s stumps to end the prospect of another big partnership with Dawid Malan, after the pair’s 237-run stand in the first innings.
He later had Malan caught behind for 54 after softening up the middle order batsman with a breathtaking assault of short-pitched bowling.
Malan’s wicket exposed England’s tail and the tall seamer then snared his fifth victim of the innings by having Craig Overton caught at gully for 12.
He finished the match with a haul of eight wickets for 140 runs.
“I thought Josh Hazlewood was magnificent today ... He deserved five wickets and hit really good areas,” Australia captain Steve Smith said after the final wicket fell.
Hazlewood has already proved a match-winner in the series, having broken England’s resistance in the second test in Adelaide by removing Joe Root and Chris Woakes in quick succession on the final day.
Only Starc, with 19 wickets at 21.05 apiece, has been more prolific this series, but his injury concern has left him in some doubt for the Boxing Day test in Melbourne.
“I think he was a little bit sore,” Smith told reporters.
“We’ll see how he pulls up over the next couple of days, I’m sure that will determine which way we go.”
Jackson Bird is the reserve seamer in the Australia squad but Smith will feel confident that Hazlewood can continue to lead the attack as the hosts continue their bid to sweep the series 5-0. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)