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Shane Warne
Cricket Expert & Columnist

Ashes 2013/14: fate of the urn could be decided early on day three

The whole series depends on whether England's batsmen stand up...

Australia can take a huge step towards regaining the Ashes by picking off England's top-order early on day three of the second Test, says Shane Warne.

The home side - who have lost the last three Ashes series - are already 1-0 up and are in control in Adelaide after establishing a 535-run lead at stumps having reduced England to 35-1 in reply to their own 570-9 declared.

Second-day centuries from Michael Clarke (148) and Brad Haddin (118) bolstered Australia, who must win the five-match series to prevent England retaining the urn, and Warne told the Sky Sports Ashes podcast that with runs on the board, the hosts are firmly in the box-seat.

"Australia are playing with some confidence," said the former leg-spinner.

"England need to fight, they need to show some character and try to get somewhere near Australia's total - and they are good enough to do it. It's just a matter of whether they can tomorrow.

"Australia have got their tails up, they've got some momentum; Mitchell Johnson is bowling absolute 'thunderbolts' and Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle look threatening too so it's not going to be easy. But if they get through that first 40 minutes to an hour without losing a wicket, I think the wickets still flat enough that they could make a big score.

Character

"Mitchell, Harris and Siddle are a class act and they bowl a good length for this type of pitch. I think there was enough in it for the England bowlers.

"When the class batsmen get runs, like Clarke and Haddin did, it looked easy; they got on top, manipulated the bowling and took a bit of a chance. They were aggressive and the luck sort of went their way.

"It's amazing. The more positive you are, the more aggressive you are, then the luck favours you. I just think that England have to get through that first hour tomorrow; if they lose a couple of wickets, it's going to be an uphill battle for the rest of the match.

"The whole series nearly depends on that first session tomorrow because if England lose three or four wickets they are going to go a long way to deciding this Test match and with Perth coming up, it's going to be tough work.

"They have to find a way to get through; they have to show some character. It's 30 degrees. If England are still batting halfway through tomorrow, Mitchell Johnson won't be bowling at 95mph. England have to wear the Australian bowlers down and bat time."

Skill

Clarke's second hundred in as many innings took him past 1,000 runs in the calendar year and Warne paid tribute to the Australian skipper both for his proficiency against spin and for changing his game to deal with a perceived technical flaw against Stuart Broad's short ball.

"He's definitely the best player of spin in the world and he's one of the best players of spin that I've seen," said Warne. "He is just a fantastic player.

"Broad had the wood on him and for him to change his stance and the way that he plays in the middle of the series [is fantastic].

"After the first innings in Brisbane he's gone hundred, hundred. He's opened his stance to Broad because he thought he was closing himself off.

"He's been able to work on his game in the middle of an Ashes series; to do that as captain when you've been losing shows a lot of character and a lot of skill too.

"He's one of my best friends - I don't want to praise him too much because I'm also his harshest critic at times too - I was really proud of him today because I think that all he's trying to do is the best he possibly can for Australia and he got some tough runs today.

"The game was in the balance overnight and for him and Haddin to go out and play the way that he did shows a bit of 'ticker' too."

Watch highlights throughout the day on Sky Sports 2 and On Demand from 6.30pm, then tune in for the Ashes Verdict from 9pm and The Ashes Extra from 11pm ahead of live coverage of day three from 11.30pm.