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Stewing nicely: Alastair Cook fails to stop another boundary. Photo: Getty Images

What does Alastair Cook say? His team has gone into the obligatory huddle. It is 1pm on a Perth Sunday, and the only cool place is the changing room they have just left, although, the way things are going, the air-con is probably on the fritz. All the fight they put in over the first two days has come to nothing. They are 134 runs and two matches behind.

Not only did England fail to bowl their opponents out for 150, they did not take a wicket up to that point.  

It gets worse. The tent is missing its pole. Stuart Broad, their only bowler with any form, is outside trying to bowl in the nets but will soon be on his way to hospital. Broad's back, not Ryan Harris's knee or Mitchell Johnson's mo, has given way to the exertion of back-to-back Test matches. That's not all. During the batting collapse that the first session turned into, Broad lingered on the crease and was hit on the left foot by the 145km/h Johnson yorker that dismissed him. Is it the back or the foot that will stop Broad from bowling in 40 degree heat? He'll take either.

Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Ben Stokes of England. Click for more photos

3rd Ashes Test from the WACA Ground, Perth

Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Ben Stokes of England. Photo: Getty Images

So what can Cook say? We don't know yet and, even if any of the England players were listening or taking it in, in their besiegement they have stopped trading text messages with their friends in the local cricket fraternity. Whatever is wrong with this England team will eventually come out, but not yet. Discipline, boys! Stick to the plans!

Cook is not known as a humourist of the David Gower breed, the school of ''Righto, I've got nothing - any ideas, anyone?'' Yet he has to say something. The huddle speech is as mandatory as morning warm-ups, even at these least comfortable moments.

A lot of cricket leadership talk conforms to a template, so maybe the best guidance comes from Cook's counterpart Michael Clarke, who called his team into a huddle at Lord's in a similar situation in July. July 2013, that is, not July 1882, which is what it seems.

Clarke pointed out that some of his players might remember a match at Cape Town in 2011 when South Africa, facing a similar deficit, bowled out their opponents for 47 and charged back for a miraculous win. This possibly brought up some unhappy memories, in consideration of the victims of the South African reversal, and Australia went on to lose the Lord's match heavily. Still, as Clarke said, you reach for what you can find.

So Cook was probably sketching a scenario by which England could win this game. Bowl Australia out for, if not 47, say 150, and chase down 285. Then win in Melbourne, watch a summer monsoon drown Sydney, and be part of the happiest ending since Denis Compton went to the … No, don't go there.

Soon it was apparent England couldn't go there either. Experience is a wonderful thing, until it becomes too much. There might have been someone in the group, a Ben Stokes or a Joe Root, who delivered an inspirational yelp before being slapped down by a James Anderson or a Kevin Pietersen. They've seen it all before, including lots of matches like this, and they know which way it's going. A lot of people who follow cricket passionately have vivid imaginations and enough memory to believe in, or worry about, the impossible - an Ashton Agar innings, a Laxman-Dravid partnership. The stronger the passion, the stronger the belief. But not these tough old pros.

Not only did England fail to bowl their opponents out for 150, they did not take a wicket up to that point. Cook, in the huddle, might have talked about creating chances. Their bowlers did that, Graeme Swann twice beating David Warner and Anderson drawing Chris Rogers into a nick. All three chances were fluffed, all three by the team leaders, Cook and Matt Prior. Michael Carberry and Ian Bell would later miss speculative opportunities to dismiss Shane Watson. Nothing, but nothing, went England's way, except the thermometer, which plummeted into the high 30s.

At length, a chilled white towel was run up the flagpole. Apparently on Pietersen's advice, Swann sent down an over to Warner that was so wide the batsman didn't so much leave the ball as sneer at it. Words were spoken, an ongoing antagonism between the teams that is now, motivationally, the oily rag England are smelling. But by the end of the day Pietersen was on his haunches at mid-on, barely summoning the interest to walk in with the bowler. England called for a late DRS referral so frivolous it can only have been to avoid exceeding the minimum number of overs.

England looked like men counting the days. It must have been one of the youngsters who was picked up by a stump microphone saying, ''OK, boys, let's enjoy this. Where else would you want to be right now?'' Well, they could have listened to their supporters. Jerusalem. England's green and pleasant land, anyone? Let's hope the encouragement was meant ironically. If ever there was a team that could do with Britain's great gift to the world - not their steam engine, their telephone or even their hovercraft, but their sense of humour - it's this one.