James Vince hopes England can remain in the Ashes despite the fact his rearguard effort was cut off by a devilish crack in the WACA pitch as Mitchell Starc served up an unplayable delivery.
England’s stylish number three was in the process of building the most important innings of his Test career to date, just when the tourists needed him most.
But after unfurling 12 trademark boundaries, he was bowled off-stump when left-armer Starc hit a crack from round the wicket and found deviation Vince admits would have defeated him every time.
He had to settle for 55 as England’s unlikely prospects of forcing stalemate in this third Test took another hit.
They reached 132 for four at stumps as they try to avoid an innings defeat and a series-sealing 3-0 deficit.
Vince was down on his luck, but not on himself, as he reflected after the fourth day on England’s perilous situation – still 127 runs behind and seriously up against it to bat out the match.
“We have two guys (Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan) at the crease who spent a lot of time there in the first innings. We have to have belief we can stay in the series,” he said.
“It’s still frustrating to get out, but it’s easier to take than the ones where you feel like you’re at fault yourself. If I faced that another 20 or 30 times, I think it would get me out every time.”
Vince has acquired a reputation for flattering to deceive with his flashy but all-too-brief innings full of perfect timing.
With stakes high on this occasion, he never looked like contributing to his own downfall.
“I felt in previous innings I was a little bit hesitant,” he added. “I’ve got in a few times and got out – so I was trying to be more positive, to help my decision-making and footwork.”
He did his best to prevent England’s remaining batsmen being spooked by what they have seen.
He said: “I said at tea that the ones that hit the cracks were doing too much and not endangering the stumps, but then that one obviously was. His plan is clear. He’ll come wide of the crease from round the wicket and try to hit the crack.
“But most of it is mental… if you can put it out of your mind, play the ball as it is and not expect it to do anything. If it does, and you can’t react, you just have to accept it and move on to the next one.”
James Anderson finished with four wickets, having drawn a blank against Steve Smith (239) and Mitch Marsh (181) the previous day, before the Australia captain declared on 662 for nine – his country’s highest ever Ashes total on home soil.
Josh Hazlewood then made short work of openers Mark Stoneman and Alastair Cook, but happily went along with observations that it is Starc who has produced the best delivery of the series.
“I’d agree with that… it was a pretty special ball,” he said. “We’d love five or six more tomorrow.”
The last Ashes Test at this famous ground has been played on a pitch of pace but one providing precious little further assistance for bowlers unless they locate the cracks.
“It’s a pretty simple method, hitting it and getting up and down and a bit sideways,” added Hazlewood.
“There’s not much more out there to aim at!”