Australia captain Steve Smith led from the front and scored a double century to bat England out of the game. Photo: @englandcricket via Twitter

PERTH – Australian batsmen Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh put England's attack to the sword on the third day of the third Test in Perth on Saturday, leaving the tourists praying for rain to salvage their hopes of retaining the Ashes.

The home side took total control of the match and were 549 for four in their first innings by stumps, with Smith on 229 and Marsh on 181, leading the hapless tourists by 146 runs with six wickets still in hand.

Australia lead the series 2-0 and can regain the Ashes with victory at the WACA Ground, with England's hopes of staying alive in the five-match series seemingly resting with the local weather.

Heavy rain is forecast for the fourth day, but is not predicted to arrive until late in the afternoon, reducing the chances of a draw.

It was a horrendous day for England, who claimed just one wicket for the day at a cost of 346 runs.

Smith notched his second Test double-century in his highest Test score, and passed 1,000 runs in the calendar year, while Marsh answered his critics to post his maiden Test ton on his home ground.

Smith and Marsh dominated the flagging England attack to put on an unbroken stand of 301 for the fifth wicket without even offering a single chance.

It is the highest partnership for Australia against England at the WACA.

Captain Joe Root even turned to the part-time leg-spin of Dawid Malan late in the day in search of a desperately needed breakthrough.

Resuming on 92, Smith reached his 22nd Test hundred early in the day from the 138th ball he faced, his quickest Test century in terms of balls faced.

Coming in his 107th Test knock, only Don Bradman (58 innings) and Sunil Gavaskar (101 innings) have reached 22 Test centuries in fewer innings.

He then reached his double-hundred from 301 balls, including 26 fours and one six, although he was content to milk easy singles against a defensive field as he reached the milestone.  

Marsh came to the crease under huge pressure to perform after a contentious recall, and having dropped a simple catch and bowled poorly during the England innings.

He started nervously but blossomed as his innings went on and notched his maiden Test century from the penultimate over before tea on his home ground, sparking scenes of jubilation from a parochial crowd.

Marsh had faced 130 balls for his hundred and a number of powerful drives were a feature of his landmark Test innings.

 AFP

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