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SIX FEET URNDER; THE ASHES: COUNTDOWN TO THE THIRD TEST Aussies gloating as England head for the 'burial ground'.

Byline: OLIVER HOLT in perth, australia

THE Australian cricket team sauntered through Adelaide Airport yesterday feted by all.

Mitchell Johnson posed for pictures with members of England's Barmy Army and Ryan Harris chatted happily with the fans.

Aussie coach Darren Lehmann, looking slightly bleary-eyed from the night before, joked around with Shane Watson.

On the Boeing 767 that brought them here to Perth, Johnson, the man of the hour, sat in seat 1A.

Lehmann, true to his image as a down-to-earth man of the people, dozed in economy while his players sat in business class.

If they bothered to read any of the Australian newspapers on board they would have learned they had already won the Ashes.

The prevailing view here is that England have no chance of avoiding defeat at the WACA in the third Test which begins here on Friday.

The Sydney Morning Herald illustrated that sentiment by devoting its back page to a picture of a gravestone dug into the wicket in Perth.

The headline said: "Burial Ground" and predicted English cricket would be dead by the time the Perth Test finishes next Tuesday.

It was a familiar theme with the tourists being mocked in Australia as limp and weak way beyond their hosts' wildest expectations.

In the Herald Andrew Webster wrote: "What astonishes most about this Ashes series is how meekly England are prepared to hand back the Urn."

Some of the confidence that they can finish the job in Perth stems from England's abject performances in Brisbane and Adelaide so far.

But much of it, inevitably, is focused on Johnson. The WACA is his home turf and the wicket, green and bouncy, should make him even hotter to handle than he has been so far.

He is being talked about in such awed tones here that you could be forgiven for thinking England will be facing a fire-breathing dragon at the WACA.

He has taken 17 wickets in this series so far at an average of 12.7, claiming successive man-of-thematch awards in Brisbane and Adelaide as Australia rushed into a 2-0 series lead.

Australian bowling coach Craig McDermott said: I'd like to see - at his home ground, being in front of his adopted state, Western Australia - what the adrenalin does to his pace.

"Not forgetting that it's not all about speed. It's about making sure that the ball is in the right spot and that is what Mitchell has done this series.

"He has been able to bowl good line or length, mixed up with some very good short-pitched bowling.

"I'm sure England think about it a fair bit. A bloke coming at you at 150kmph or 155kmph, with a slinging action, is not a lot of fun, let me tell you.

"When we played the West Indies it wasn't much fun during that golden era either.

"But the way he has been bowling in this series is exciting just for cricket in general and it's great for him and our side."

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke has done his best to remain impervious to the triumphalist mood and has refused to write off England's chances.

He has stressed over and over again what a good side England are and has, in press conferences at least, taken care to be respectful about their players.

He has also sought to drag attention away from the cult of Johnson and spread the credit to Harris and Peter Siddle, the other members of the Aussies' pace attack.

Lehmann attempted the same approach but could not resist a wry smile when the subject turned to England's suffering at the hands of Johnson.

He said: "A bowler bowling at 150km an hour is going to do that to you.

"A 150km an hour bowler got me out every time but then I was never a very courageous player."

Some are predicting that with the adrenalin of returning to the WACA coursing through him Johnson may hit 100mph in Perth.

The pitch should bring the hostile best out of Harris and Siddle too and put England in the line of fire for a short-ball barrage.

The hostility of the bowling and the amount of times English batsmen have been caught on the leg side in this series has already prompted light-hearted comparisons with the Bodyline Series.

England won that series, of course. Now Australia are aiming to make sure it is their turn.

CAPTION(S):

JOKING Darren Lehmann

RIP ENGLAND The mocked-up headstone at the WACA, and, right, Michael Clarke
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 11, 2013
Words:749
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