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Ashes in back pocket as cracks turn to canyons
Shane Watson adds to England pain with another four.

The Ashes are on their way back to Australia. They might arrive today. They might be delayed until tomorrow.

But after a record-breaking opening stand helped Australia to a lead of 369, England face a near impossible task to save the third Test on a WACA Ground pitch where the initial cracks are starting to resemble canyons.

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"If they keep widening it will be very hard to bat on and a bit scary," opener Chris Rogers said.

"We couldn't be in a better position. We still have 10 wickets to get, but to finish day three 370 up is position A. Today was an amazing day - probably as good a day as we have had in the Ashes."

David Warner brutalised the England attack with his second century of the series, a rapid-fire 112 that was mostly comprised of crashing boundaries, to compound England's misery as they prepared for the loss of another key player.

"You've got to keep riding that rollercoaster, don't let up and keep batting with intent and that's what I've been doing," Warner said.

"I know when I get out some people get a bit disappointed but that's just the way I play.

"Sometimes it's a bit hit and miss and I'm probably in the form of my career."

Paceman Stuart Broad was struck on the right foot while batting and couldn't bowl yesterday when Australia raced to 3-235.

The task for Shane Watson (29 not out) and Steve Smith (5no) today will be to build the lead towards 500, with the best part of five sessions then left to claim 10 wickets and the Ashes.

Broad will also discover this morning whether the Mitchell Johnson sandshoe crusher that trapped him lbw also crushed any bones in his foot.

He will not bowl today but may attempt to bat if England require him to save the Test.

Broad cut a forlorn figure as he hobbled from the ground to have scans, prompting jeers from spectators that he was still reluctant to walk in an Ashes Test.

He returned to the ground with a moon boot on his right foot and aided by crutches.

Feeble batting in the morning session saw the last six wickets fall to Australia's three primary pacemen to extinguish virtually any hope England had of remaining in the match and retaining the Ashes won during the past three consecutive series.

South Africa chased 414 at the WACA Ground five years ago, but that was on a considerably more benign surface than the current clay minefield that has contracted and split in the extreme heat.

Excellent pace and true bounce are still features of the pitch, but the occasional jagged deviation makes batting a lottery and challenges each batsman to maintain his equilibrium in a hostile and unaccustomed environment.

Several Johnson deliveries leapt sideways from the cracks in the first session yesterday, while Rogers was stuck a ferocious blow to the ribs when Ben Stokes got a ball to rear from a good length.

"They would know that, particularly with our pace, that (the cracks) will get a bit worrisome," he said.

"It is a good surface but the cracks will come more into play."

Rogers (54) eased to his second half century of the series, but was content to allow Warner to act as pacemaker during their partnership of 157.

Underlining the difficulty of opening batsmen thriving against the new ball at the WACA Ground, the duo nearly doubled the best opening stand in an Ashes match at the ground by beating the 81 compiled by Mark Taylor and Michael Slater in 1998-99.

Julian Wiener and West Australian Bruce Laird combined for 91 in December 1979, but England refused to put the Ashes on the line in the three-Test series that summer that marked the resolution of the World Series Cricket revolution.

"Today was an amazing day - probably as good a day as we've had in the Ashes." " *Chris Rogers *