England 215 & 326-6 (Bell 95no) v
Australia 280 (Agar 98, Anderson 5-85)
First Test, Trent Bridge, day three
England took the upper hand in the first Ashes Test on a relatively attritional third day at Trent Bridge. Led by Ian Bell and with supporting roles from Matt Prior and more significantly Stuart Broad, they closed 261 runs ahead on 326 for six.
Bell and Broad both came perilously close to being dismissed, with the former reviewing an LBW decision successfully and the latter showing an unusual level of gamesmanship, some would call it worse, to benefit from a shocker of a decision from the usually excellent Aleem Dar.
He got a healthy edge to a delivery from Ashton Agar which rebounded off wicket-keeper Brad Haddin’s gloves and into the hands of Michael Clarke at first slip. Most batsmen wouldn’t have even glanced at the umpire, instead just walking off as Jonny Bairstow did earlier with a much thinner edge, but Broad stood his ground and arranged his facial features into a pattern of unperturbed innocence. Dar gave him not out much to the disgust of the Australian close fielders.
It could be argued, of course, that Australia were to blame for wasting their two reviews earlier in the day, or that the umpire should always be left to make the decision; that, though, is something Broad does not always appear to believe in when he is bowling. Nonetheless, it should not detract from Broad’s innings and the potentially crucial part that his partnership with Bell has played in the outcome of this match.
The pair came together with the lead still well short of 200 and Australia fancying their chances of keeping it down to gettable proportions. However, Bell continued to play intelligently, as he had done in earlier partnerships with Bairstow and Prior, while Broad showed why, upon his introduction to Test cricket, many viewed him as a potential genuine all-rounder.
In recent times, he has tended to view himself as a lower-order hitter, but with a proper batsmen in Bell at the other end, and possibly in view of his colleagues’ earlier self-denial, he played with commendable restraint.
Indeed, Prior had been the only man all day to show anything like his usual fluency, hitting 31 off 42 balls before being caught pulling Peter Siddle. Kevin Pietersen dragged on just as he was threatening to play the match-defining innings, while Cook’s trend of converting each half-century into a century whilst captain came to an end when he was well caught off Ashton Agar by Michael Clarke at slip.
Bell was the star of the day for England and that must not be forgotten amidst all the inevitable talk around Broad’s non-dismissal in the coming hours. He has answered his critics, who continually question his place in this team, in the best possible manner and has scored runs that no-one could ever describe as ‘soft’. They have quite possibly, in fact, been match-winning.
© Cricket World 2013