Cow Corner

View from Down Under: Torn apart, limb by limb

As expected, the Australian media are all but celebrating regaining the Ashes urn after yet another dominant display on day four of the third Test in Perth.

There is plenty of adulation reserved for Shane Watson, whose 'Whac-A-Mole' knock of 103 was as thrilling as it was riveting and put the hosts on the verge of another crushing victory at the WACA Ground.

With just five wickets to claim on the final day, the feeling is that it's just a matter of time before Australia seal the series, and the host nation is ready to party.

Yet for all Australia's brilliance, England's performances, both as a team and individually, have raised serious questions about their ability, with Robert Craddock in the Courier-Mail suggesting that when Alastair Cook leaves this tour, he will know his team has reached the end of an era.

Alastair Cook is among the most composed of cricketers, yet when he walked off the WACA on Monday he looked like a man heading for the gallows.

Head down and walking so slowly it was as if he was dragging an invisible ball and chain, Cook's abject misery embodied the mood of his side.

England's admirable young captain, a decent, humble man in every respect, has simply been torn apart, limb by precious limb this tour.

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To Watson, Australia's latest champion in a series that has thrown up a multitude of heroes.

Greg Baum in The Age was so impressed with Watson's knock that he compares the batsman to a 100-foot ancient Greek statue, an Aussie version of the Titan Helios, standing defiant over his weary, defeated opposition. Only with more clothes on.

Aficianados of Test cricket prefer it because, more surely than in shorter forms, each act has meaning beyond its fact. What then to construe from madding Monday?

This: that Watson, when free in the mind and able to hit with impunity, remains a scintillating and devastating striker of a cricket ball. Butch Harman would have been proud of the way he turned his hips and moved his weight through the ball, and this one, unlike a golf ball, was bouncing and moving at him, briskly. Upon attaining his hundred, Watson stood mid-pitch, arms imperiously raised, the Colossus of Rhodes.

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Meanwhile Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald clearly enjoyed Watson's innings, even if the respected cricket writer remains unconvinced, arguing that his "usual oddball" knock only served to raise as many questions as it answered.

Shane Watson's fourth Test century goes into the scorebook as a run-a-ball 103, but it was less like cricket than Whac-A-Mole. Questions arose, Watson swung at them, sometimes hitting, sometimes missing, and another popped up somewhere else. See the mole, hit the mole. Was this the dominant century of a No.3 that we are to see more of? Or another tease?

The feared Watson of limited-overs breaking out at Test level and set to conquer for years to come, or the flat-track bullying of a depleted attack when all that was at stake was the size of Australia's lead? The settling of the matter, or the exception that proves the rule? The corner turned … or the corner turned again?

Whatever the answer, he certainly whacked a few moles.

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In amongst the equal amounts of praise for Australia and criticism of England lay some admiration for Ben Stokes, who showed the kind of fight that has been missing from most of the tourists' play so far this series.

Shane Warne, whose glee at his country's performances has been barely concealed during his Channel Nine commentary - an accusation that should not just be levelled at him; Slats, Huss, Tayls, Heals and Braysh are equally as guilty of being so partisan - at least singled out the young Englishman for some kind words.

A great day for the Aust cricket team, well done boys. Wrap it up tomorrow. Congrats to young Ben Stokes for showing some fight too #ashes

— Shane Warne (@warne888) December 16, 2013

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Chris Barrett in the Sydney Morning Herald too gave Stokes his dues after a belligerent 72 not out, while digging out a famous old quote from a former Prime Minister - not the first time that has been done by a journalist this series.

Paul Keating, once asked by John Hewson why he wouldn't call an early election despite his overwhelming confidence, famously replied: ''Mate, because I want to do you slowly.''

There is a similar feeling about events at the WACA Ground, which are panning out to an inevitable if slightly elongated Ashes triumph for Australia on Tuesday.

England's tough second-gamer Ben Stokes showed great determination late on day four of the third Test, but with only five wickets remaining - and one day left - its fightback is surely destined to go the way of Hewson's.

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And finally, with a series win on the horizon, Malcolm Conn in the Daily Telegraph suggests that this latest Australia team can be talked about in the same breath as the classic side of 2006-07. High praise indeed and quite possibly merited..

Just seven years after Shane Warne bowled Monty Panesar in Perth for Australia to regain the Ashes, who would have thought it would be happening again?

Stung by becoming the first Australian team to surrender the Ashes in almost two decades, the superstars of 2006-07 made short work of that series by going 3-0 up in Perth on the way to a 5-0 whitewash.

There was any number of greats and very goods in that side, topped by Warne of course. Add Langer, Hayden, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Gilchrist, Lee and McGrath and the line "greatest of all time" comes to mind.

Compare that side to Australia's cobbled together team which has so crushed England's spirit in Perth, after big wins in Brisbane and Adelaide. How can it be that by day four of the third Test, Australia was administering the last rites to England after beginning this series with no wins from nine Tests and a recent 3-0 Ashes loss in England.

Now this motley crew are about to stand with the giants of 2006-07.

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