The last time the England cricket team won in Perth, they beat a team of Australian pub-quiz questions. Rick Darling, John Maclean and Alan Hurst were among the victims in a Kerry Packer-denuded side. Thirty-nine years later, the Ashes hosts are more "no mercy" than "no name".

With alarming accuracy, and sobering intent, Australia's bowling attack made a mockery of England's hopes of chasing down 354 runs to win the second test.

Steve Smith, Australia's captain, took a sleeping pill the night before to ease his nerves, but Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were wide-awake to the challenge on the short fifth day in Adelaide.

Under a glistening sky, they blew away six English batsmen for 56 runs with bowling of exquisitely measured length. No wonder Smith was so pleased with "Josh, Gazza and Paddy".

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England now need to win two of the last three tests and draw the other to retain the urn.

"It's always tough coming back from 2-0 down, especially when you're away from home," Smith said. "You can be only one or two bad sessions away from losing the series. I think that can play on people's minds."

From that, you may conclude a series defeat is hurtling down the track for Joe Root's team, even if Smith made life harder for his side with his hapless DRS strategy and only 40 and six runs with the bat. Do not try telling him, though, that he lost the sledging to Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

"I think the opposite," Smith said, after England had been wiped for 233: "I think they actually switched me on. I think it was when they stopped talking to me that I might have lost concentration. I actually enjoyed it.

It's always tough coming back from 2-0 down, especially when you're away from home. You can be only one or two bad sessions away from losing the series. I think that can play on people's minds.

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"It made me really focused. It got me in my bubble, and I had my little idiosyncrasies about myself. It got me going. They can think what they like, but from my point of view, it made me focus."

No side would have found life comfortable against Smith's quicks, or the devilish Lyon, who has taken England wickets superbly by spin, bounce, catch and run-out.

The twitchy, stressed Smith was no longer visible. In his place, a contented general surveyed his bowlers' work. "Josh hasn't been bowling as well as I've seen him bowl. He knows that," Smith conceded. "But the lengths he came out and bowled were exceptional. The wickets of Root and Chris Woakes — that's Josh Hazlewood. He bowls that length day in, day out. He doesn't try to swing the ball too much, he just hits the seam and gets movement both ways."

And Lyon? "I think Nathan is bowling as well as I've seen him bowl. He's hitting great lengths, he's very confident. A lot of credit's got to go to Paddy Cummins, as well.

"Even when things weren't going our way, he was only going at one and a bit an over, so he was still keeping the pressure on. He beat the bat a few times and he got the key wicket of Dawid Malan. He's a talented player."

A combined 199,147 spectators watched the Adelaide Oval test. Few will have left this beautiful ground eager to bet on Australia's bowlers falling apart in Perth. Smith is now saying his contentious decision not to enforce the follow-on was a fatigue-avoidance tactic.

He said: "I would say, over the last day or two, I've had a few different thoughts, and I've read a lot of things. But in the end we won the game so it's all irrelevant. We know it's a long summer and we know these guys we've got are valuable. Just giving them a bit of a rest always makes me confident they can come back and do the business. The English bowlers bowled 150 overs in the first innings. An Ashes series is long, and if you can tire their bowlers early on in the summer, it can work to your advantage."