A Tremendous return
England can turn the screw on day two of the Perth Test, says Bob Willis, after Chris Tremlett's fruitful recall.
Last Updated: 16/12/10 11:17am
Purposeful and precise - England's grip on the Ashes is getting ever tighter.
It's hard to see how the first day in Perth could have gone much better for them.
Australia, desperate to get back into the series, gambled by requesting a green, grassy pitch and picking four seamers (five if you count Shane Watson) and that move backfired when they lost the toss.
Once again the top order wilted under pressure and, but for some much-needed lower-order resistance, a total of 268 would have been well out of reach.
Despite those late runs things still don't look very encouraging for Ricky Ponting's side as they stand.
There was precious little encouragement for the Aussie bowlers in the last 45 minutes of the day and once the heavy roller does its work I can't see why England shouldn't look to get at least 450 on this pitch.
As a unit England's bowlers were a little off colour in the morning session with the exception of Chris Tremlett, who performed superbly on his return to the side to set the tone.
He made the most of his height but more importantly struck the right length.
Pitching the ball up that little bit further at Perth takes a bit of doing as a quick bowler; many, myself included, have been guilty of bowling their natural length but that's simply too short.
As the bounce is so true any batsman worth his salt - as Mike Hussey and then Alastair Cook showed admirably - should be able to leave a straight ball that is short of a length as it will bounce over the top of the stumps.
Instead, Australia's batsmen got drawn into playing too many shots and poor ones at that; Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke's efforts were particularly ill advised.
But all credit to Tremlett. He produced a tremendous three-card trick to account for Phillip Hughes, who showed that he remains susceptible to a probing fuller ball just after a shorter delivery.
Such instability at the top of the order is not only unsettling the team but it means that Ponting barely has time to collect his thoughts before making it out to the middle.
This time he was sent on his way by another spectacular Paul Collingwood slip catch.
Nick Knight said to me during the last Test that Jonathan Trott is one of the best slip fielders he has ever seen but he can't get a look in with Collingwood and Graeme Swann in such great form and that has to be a really healthy sign for England.
You have to give Richard Halsall, the fielding coach, a lot of credit for England's success in this area because he's clearly worked very hard on the guys.
At 69-5 Australia were in deep trouble but the tail proved what type of pitch this is - one that offers precious little seam movement once the new ball softens.
It's extraordinary that Steve Smith should bat before Brad Haddin in the order; after all, there's nothing in his domestic or Test record that suggests he's a genuine Test number six whereas Haddin has scored runs in this series and complements Hussey's game well.
Either way it was a good effort from the guys down the order and Mitchell Johnson is clearly a very capable striker of the ball.
He now needs to do the job he was brought in for, namely take wickets, because Australia's attack is going to look very samey come mid-afternoon on day two unless the seamers lift their game.
To a man England's batsmen are in decent form and they can rightly feel confident about tightening the screw another couple of turns. It's all going worryingly well.