WACA pitch turns back the clock as England, Australia turn heat up

Australia's vaunted pacemen came out breathing fire but it was England's Dawid Malan who smothered the blaze with his maiden Test century giving the hosts a fight to take the urn in Perth.

The bounce is back in the WACA's famous pitch for its last hurrah as England's embattled top order defied some at times hostile fast bowling to produce arguably its finest performance of the series.

They were aided by some sloppy fielding from the new-look Australian slip cordon with Cameron Bancroft and comeback kid Mitchell Marsh both putting down chances.

Australia have invariably won the key moments in this series but on Thursday it was the visitors who stood tall just in the nick of time.

After losing quick wickets early in the second session, including one to a controversial decision review system call, England was saved by Malan and the elevated Jonny Bairstow, who have added an unbeaten 174 for the fifth wicket.

Dropped on 92 by Bancroft, Malan reached triple figures in the final 20 minutes of the day with his parents in the stands. He is the first Englishman to score a century this series.

"It was so emotional I almost started crying," Malan said. "To do it in front of them, the number of sacrifices my old man and mother have made along the way to get me here has been great. It was nice to do it in front of them for all the time they've given me."

It's too early to determine if it will be a match-winning ton but, at 4-305 at stumps on the first day with Malan on 110 and Bairstow on 75, they are well placed to push the home side and potentially keep the series alive after Christmas.

They have forced the Australian attack to sweat for long periods, though Steve Smith has a fourth seamer in Mitchell Marsh up his sleeve here.

The manner in which Malan and Bairstow navigated the afternoon was in contrast to the firestorm which confronted England's top order.

No player felt the heat more than England opener Mark Stoneman, who lost his bat, his helmet and his wicket.

Although seldom at ease, the former Sydney grade cricket regular enhanced his reputation as a fighter, withstanding some hostile pace bowling to strike a brave 56.

It was a half-century well earned, coming at the cost of one broken bat handle and a helmet at the hands of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood respectively.

The second blow, which sent his stem guard flying, was of more concern with several members of the Australian team coming to his immediate aid.

Although Stoneman, on 52, was cleared to play on by England's medical staff he then batted like a man who was seeing double.

No sooner had he re-gathered his composure, he copped a searing lifter next ball which found his edge but not the hands of Nathan Lyon despite his desperate dive.

It was no surprise a short ball, which clipped his right glove and was taken by Tim Paine, ended his stay though his dismissal via DRS upset Root, who punched the dressing-room door in anger.

Stoneman was initially given not out by Marais Erasmus only for it to be controversially overturned by video umpire Aleem Dar.

The correct verdict was ultimately reached, though questions were raised whether he followed the correct protocol with evidence from Snicko and Hot Spot appearing inconclusive.

It was took a different angle made available after Stoneman had left the field to support his decision.

"We were pretty confident, certainly live," Paine said.

"We thought it was out straight away. I've only seen one replay upstairs, slow-mo close up, and I thought it looked pretty good.

Of their top four, only Alastair Cook, playing in his 150th Test, was unable to reach double figures. The former captain made just seven before being trapped plumb in front by a 147.6 km/h half volley which he missed.

James Vince played several trademark drives on his way to 25 before being caught behind - also in trademark fashion - to a waft outside off stump to Hazlewood.

Root, too, looked composed but was unable to turn his stay from a cameo into a lead role when he was strangled down leg side by Pat Cummins for 20.

The captain would be particularly disappointed, having pleaded with his senior players to lead the way in this crucial match.

This story WACA pitch turns back the clock as England, Australia turn heat up first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.