Perth:Australia's problems continued on the opening day at the WACA as they struggled to 268 against more impressive bowling from England, but even that represented a fightback after another top-order meltdown. Chris Tremlett was the stand-out performer on his recall with three wickets, while James Anderson shook off concerns over jet-lag with three for himself. During the morning the hosts were in tatters at 4 for 36 but managed to haul themselves to respectability as Mitchell Johnson top-scored with 62.
Mike Hussey's prolific form continued with 61, as did his strong partnership with Brad Haddin who made 53, but it's a sign of the problems Australia are facing that they need to cling to half-centuries as moments of success. The lower order rallied with some style however, but that can't gloss over more worrying failures from the top of the list as the country's leading batsmen struggled to adapt to home conditions.
England's openers survived 12 overs until the close with Alastair Cook upper-cutting a six to third man, but Andrew Strauss flashed a chance past Hussey in the gully which the fielder didn't appear to pick up in the setting sun. The quick bowlers tried banging the ball in, although Ryan Harris was off target and there wasn't much swing for Ben Hilfenhaus. It continued to make a stark contrast to England.
Tremlett is playing his first Test since 2007 having been preferred over Tim Bresnan as Stuart Broad's replacement. That was always the likely move and he was rewarded in his first over when he won the battle with Phillip Hughes and troubled all the Australian batsmen. Michael Clarke could only offer a weak waft outside off to end another unconvincing display and in between Tremlett's two early successes Anderson claimed Ricky Ponting, for the third time in series, when Paul Collingwood held a stunning catch at third slip. Although not quite the drama of Adelaide at 3 for 2, 3 for 28 still wasn't good for Australia.
It fully justified Strauss's bold decision to bowl first, eager to keep the pressure on Australia's fragile top order. If it wasn't for the UDRS, England would have struck in the first over but Shane Watson was reprieved when replays showed the ball had struck thigh pad and not glove on the way down the leg side. However, the visitors didn't have to wait long as Tremlett immediately made an impression. After a couple of short balls to Hughes he pitched one fuller which the left-hander tried to play to leg and was bowled. As during the 2009 Ashes it wasn't the actual short ball that did for Hughes, but more the set-up.
Tremlett almost added Ponting without scoring when extra bounce found the edge but it flew between third slip and gully, but he only lasted 10 deliveries. Collingwood's grab at third slip won't be bettered in the series as he flung himself high to his right and the Australia captain was left with another low score.
Following Clarke's brief stay, which won't have quietened the debate about whether he should be Australia's next captain, Watson and Hussey were in a similar situation to Adelaide of having to halt England's charge. Watson, though, wasn't as confident as with his twin fifties last week and departed when Steven Finn's pinpoint yorker struck boot before bat. This time UDRS didn't save him.
* Ricky Ponting averages just over 41 in matches played in the last two years. In 73 matches between 2002 and 2008, he averaged over 65 with 27 centuries.
* Australia's 268 is their third lowest score against England at Perth since 1986. In the previous Ashes Test at Perth, they made only 244, but went on to win by 206 runs.
* Michael Hussey has scored over fifty in all his four innings in the series. He has 401 runs at an average of 100.25 so far.
* Chris Tremlett,playing in his first away Test, picked up 3 for 63. This was his fourth three wicket haul in seven innings.
* Mitchell Johnson's fifty was his first in 2010 and fifth overall. In 2010, he averages 13.56 while his overall average if 23.23.
Steve Smith supported Hussey until the lunch interval before being superbly worked over by Tremlett in a manner that shouldn't happen to a Test No. 6 and England sensed a quick kill. However, after a period of weathering the storm Hussey and Haddin started to open their shoulders. Haddin used his feet in Swann's first over and Hussey took three boundaries off Finn's next over, the first taking him to his fourth his fifty of a prolific series from 98 balls, and it needed a superb delivery from Swann to end his stay. Initially the umpire didn't give the decision, but Matt Prior was so convinced he signalled for the review while celebrating and Hotspot proved him spot on.
It was a timely blow for England because Finn didn't last much longer before leaving for treatment on a tight calf after his 11th over. His previous three overs had cost 28, but to England's relief he returned to the attack in the final session. With Finn not fully fit, it put an added burden on the other two pacemen and Anderson responded with a fiery spell. He removed Haddin when Swann held another cracking catch at second slip then speared one through Ryan Harris, who at least managed to open his account after the king pair in Adelaide, and he exchanged words with Johnson at the non-striker's end.
For Johnson it was a vital innings, his first contribution to the series after his horrid Brisbane display. He looked far better than some of his top-order colleagues, driving through the off side against the quicks and peppered the leg side against Swann. With just the final two wickets for company he didn't hold back before picking out square leg with a pull.
Siddle and Hilfenhaus took up the attacking mindset, unleashing a barrage of shots during a final-wicket stand of 35 which shook England a little, until Swann returned to have Hilfenhaus taken at short leg. The final total was better than it may have been earlier in the day, but it's slim pickings for Australia at the moment.