Saker rues missed chance
England bowling coach David Saker lamented a missed opportunity in the must-win third Ashes Test, saying: "We had them on the ropes and didn't finish the job."
The home truths England delivered among themselves after their defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide appeared to be bearing fruit when they reduced Australia to 143 for five after Michael Clarke won the toss on a burning hot day at the WACA.
But three hours later, the only answer was yet more brutal honesty from Saker after Steve Smith's second Test hundred had carried the hosts to 326 for six after all.
Smith (103 not out) tucked into England's frazzled seamers as they dropped ever shorter in search of wickets to try to accelerate a contest they know they have to win to retain any chance of a fourth consecutive Ashes series success.
He completed his first Test hundred on home soil, after sharing a century stand with Brad Haddin (55) and then combining with Mitchell Johnson to add another 59 as England's toiling attack flagged.
There was no certainty that the upshot was an above-par total for the hosts on a typically quick pitch at this venue - but after England's fine start, Saker did not try to put a positive gloss on events.
"There's no doubt we let it slip - and probably not for the first time this series," he said.
"We had them on the ropes and we didn't finish the job.
"It's partly down to the way they played with the bat...(but) we didn't deliver what we should have delivered today.
"The disappointing thing is I think we did chase wickets, and that's probably one of the first times we've done that as a group for as long as I've been in charge."
Saker also admitted England may have got their attacking selection wrong for this match.
The tourists went with the experience of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan as a frontline attack, with all-rounder Ben Stokes weighing in with Haddin's wicket.
Anderson and Bresnan toiled through 38 overs between them without reward, although Anderson ran out Chris Rogers early on.
There had been talk of a wild-card selection in the attack, but Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin sat it out.
"We assess that all the time and try to make sure we get selection right," Saker told Sky Sports.
"Like everything, we make mistakes, like cricketers make mistakes.
"We could have made a mistake (in) this game but I'm sure if our bowlers bowled to their capabilities we wouldn't have got it wrong. We picked the side we thought would get 20 wickets and I still think we can.
"We had a disappointing day but I'm sure we'll bounce back."
After David Warner (60) and a clutch of other top-order batsmen had been compliant in their own dismissals, England had an opportunity to take control.
Instead, as Saker put it: "We went to the short ball probably too much. We didn't hold our lengths for long enough to put pressure on them.
"We know that. We're not going to shy away from that.
"We pride ourselves on...bringing the batsmen forward and always making it hard for the opposition to score.
"We found it really hard to do that."
England's blueprint for success with the ball, when the pitch is not in their favour, is to starve batsmen.
"It can be disappointing when you plan these things - but we didn't do it right," added Saker.
"There are some disappointed bowlers in there and a disappointed bowling coach right now - but I've been with this team long enough to know they'll bounce back.
"For all our bowlers, it's just about doing what they do really well.
"Don't go searching for wickets, don't panic - just do what you do really well."
He does not buy the mid-90 degrees temperature under cloudless skies as an excuse either.
"In the heat, no doubt it's tough," he said.
"But you prepare yourself to play Test cricket all round the world, and we've played in conditions like this - if not worse - before and acquitted ourselves really well.
"There's no way we can blame the weather.
"We've got the chance when we bat to keep the Australians out there for as long as we can.
"We have to do our job on Saturday and get those four wickets as fast as we can."
Smith helpfully confirmed where England had gone wrong, first of all by repeatedly pulling them for four and then afterwards by saying: "I think they might have bowled a little bit short in patches.
"I think, when we come out and bowl, we're going to be a yard fuller - and we hope that will create chances for us."
None of that is news to Saker, of course, who is nonetheless far from ready to wave the white flag here just yet.
"You can't judge a game after one day of Test cricket," he said.
"People in our room have seen enough Test cricket to know it's well and truly not over.
"If we can come out tomorrow and get four for 50 or four for 60, and then really dig in with the bat, it's still game on.
"There's still four more days to go. We are really determined to win this game."