By Ian Ransom
PERTH (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root sought to draw a line under the litany of off-field incidents that have dogged the team throughout the Ashes on Wednesday, even as a senior player admitted they would continue to haunt the side during the third test in Perth.
Two-nil down to Australia after defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, England must at least cobble a draw at the WACA to keep the five-match series alive, at a venue where they have lost their last seven matches.
On the eve of the Perth test, however, the tourists' hopes of focusing on the cricket continued to be tested with queries about the team's off-field culture.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan criticised the side for behaving like "students" on tour in the wake of the suspension handed to England Lions squad member Ben Duckett for pouring a drink over the head of pace bowler James Anderson.
British media, meanwhile, reported that England coach Trevor Bayliss had threatened players that careers would be on the line if another off-field distraction arose following the Ben Stokes suspension and Jonny Bairstow's 'head-butt' incident.
Having already been quizzed repeatedly about team discipline, Root hoped that his players could put the focus back on cricket and away from the bar with a good WACA performance.
"You've got to take it in your stride, you've got to move on and as you're fully aware from our point of view, it's very disappointing how things have turned out so far," he told reporters at the venue.
"It's about putting that right now, this week. We had an excellent attitude around practice yesterday and it has to be the same today. It's obviously been a big learner (in terms of captaincy)," Root added.
"I think the thing that for me is that we're so close to getting it right. We've shown that we're in this series, it's just pulling that all together."
The off-field incidents have been used as ammunition on the field by Australia.
Captain Steve Smith claimed his team had unsettled Bairstow in the series-opener at the Gabba by sledging him about his head-butt 'greeting' of Australia's opening batsman Cameron Bancroft during a boozy night out in Perth last month.
Anderson said Duckett's gaffe was certain to be raised out on the field at the WACA.
"Fine," he wrote in his column for British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. "It will probably be funnier than what they have spouted at me so far in this series."
Anderson also took a swipe at England's coaching staff over their strategy during the second test defeat, saying he and his fellow pacemen had not bowled full enough at Adelaide Oval.
"It was an oversight from the players on the field but also from the coaches who could have had an input too, which is frustrating," he wrote.
Root moved quickly to play down any hint of disharmony, however, and said the team had trained with an "excellent attitude".
"I think the relationship (with the staff) has been really good," he said.
"It's probably slightly harsh to put the blame onto the coaches... Ultimately, us guys on the field, we're the ones that are responsible for what we're doing out there."
England named an unchanged team later on Wednesday, but with a minor change to their batting order. Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow has been promoted to six in place of all-rounder Moeen Ali who drops to seven.
Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (captain), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Craig Overton, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
(Editing by John O'Brien/Sudipto Ganguly)