The Ashes: Stokes, Bell delay 3-0

The AshesThe Ashes: Ben Stokes and Matt Prior (not in picture) need to bat through the final day to save the Test and keep the series alive (Reuters)

A dominant Australia were five wickets away from reclaiming the Ashes after hammering England with the bat and reducing them to 251 for five with the ball at the end of the fourth day of the third Test at the WACA on Monday.

Ben Stokes, who was 72 not out after scoring his maiden Test half-century, and Matt Prior (7) will resume on Tuesday with the tourists still trailing by 252 runs and needing to bat through the final day to keep the series alive.

Shane Watson earlier smashed 73 runs off 40 balls for a spectacular century and George Bailey equalled the Test record for most runs from a single over before Australia declared at 369 for three some 40 minutes before lunch.

Requiring 504 runs for an unlikely victory, England's worst Test session for a long time had not quite reached its nadir and Ryan Harris sensationally bowled Alastair Cook for a golden duck with the first ball of the innings.

"To have a license to take on the game was a lot of fun," said all-rounder Watson, whose ballistic 103 included 11 fours and the five bludgeoned sixes.

"We're confident. Absolutely. A good night sleep will freshen our bowlers up to be able to have a really good crack first thing in the morning.

"We have to bowl really well to give ourselves the best chance to be able to achieve a few dreams, for a lot of us who've been involved in the last few series especially."

England, shell-shocked after Australia's morning assault, did at least slow down the home side's momentum after lunch with Michael Carberry (31), Joe Root (19) getting starts.

Kevin Pietersen was also well set on 45 when, in a move unlikely to appease his critics, he strode down the wicket to take on spinner Nathan Lyon, sending the ball high into the sky but failing to clear Harris at the long-on boundary.

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