Early strike: Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, centre, celebrates after claiming the wicket of England’s Mark Stoneman. Picture: REUTERS
Early strike: Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, centre, celebrates after claiming the wicket of England’s Mark Stoneman. Picture: REUTERS

Perth — Australia were confident rain would not deny them the Ashes despite play being abandoned early on the fourth day of the third Test against England on Sunday.

The home side lead the five-Test series 2-0 and a win in the last-ever Ashes Test to be played at the Waca ground would see them regain the urn. At stumps on the fourth day they could smell victory despite the showers sweeping across Perth and predicted to continue into the final day’s play.

Trailing by 259 runs in the first innings after Australia declared at 662/9, England were 132/4 when stumps was called early after a rain-interrupted final session, with Dawid Malan on 28 and Jonny Bairstow on 14, still behind by 127 runs.

Australian pacemen Josh Hazlewood, who claimed the wickets of opener Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman, said the home side did not expect rain to stand in their way.

"We’ve looked at it [the weather forecast] a little bit," he said. "I think there is just  some rain tomorrow [Monday] morning. Hopefully that doesn’t hang around too long and we can get the best part of two sessions in to take these next six wickets. We’d love to have stayed out there for another [session] and got that fifth wicket, but we’ll come back tomorrow for the other six."

The last man out on the fourth day was James Vince for a neat 55, bowled when a Mitchell Starc ball jagged off a crack and crashed into his stumps.

Hazlewood said that the crack would be part of the Australian attack’s game plan on the last day.

"I’d like five or six more [to hit the crack] tomorrow," he said.

"You only need a couple to straighten off it and you are in the game."

More rain is forecast for Monday before lunchtime.

Vince said the English believed they could save the game regardless of the weather.

"I think we try and put the rain to the back of our minds," he said. "We’ve got to have belief that we can save the series and get over the line tomorrow.

"It’s going to be tough and I’m sure there’s going to be some good balls flying around out there but these two especially showed in the first innings that they can occupy the crease for a long time, so hopefully they
get off to a good start in the morning," Vince said.

The tourists’ second innings got off to a dismal start when opener Stoneman was caught behind from the bowling of Hazlewood for just three in the second over. In his 150th Test, Cook’s woes continued when Hazlewood snared a brilliant one-handed return catch to remove him for 14, leaving the former skipper with just 83 runs at 13.83 for the series.

Captain Joe Root was the third man out, to spinner Nathan Lyon’s first ball of the innings, caught at first slip by his Australian counterpart, Steve Smith, for 14 off the glove of wicketkeeper Tim Paine.

Earlier Australia scored their highest Ashes total at home and fifth-highest against England.

Although Smith added just 10 to his overnight total before being dismissed for 239, his innings was the cornerstone of the huge total.

Smith was adjudged to be
leg before wicket on review after James Anderson’s confident shout was turned down by on-field umpire
Chris Gaffaney.

The successful review ended a chanceless 399-ball epic innings that included 30 fours and one six.