Brilliant Bell Puts England 202 Runs Ahead
England 238 & 234-5 (Bell 105no) v
Australia 260 (Rogers 110)
Fourth Ashes Test, Chester-le-Street, day four
A third century in the series from Ian Bell helped England close day three of the fourth Ashes Test against Australia at Chester-le-Street on 234 for five in their second innings, leading by 202 runs.
After two days that had been dominated by Australia, England fought back, first taking five wickets in the morning session to bowl Australia out for 260 and then recovering from a position of 49 for three in their second innings.
That was the score when Bell came to the crease and he reached his 20th Test century, going on to end the day unbeaten on 105 in 189 balls as England finished strongly.
With Australia trailing by 16 overnight, England needed to take wickets quickly and through Graeme Swann (2-48) they did so as the off-spinner had Brad Haddin trapped in front for 13 and then Chris Rogers well caught by Matthew Prior for 110.
Haddin unsuccessfully reviewed his decision and England needed to review a not out decision to see off Rogers, who played brilliantly on day two to move Australia towards their eventual first innings lead, when Hot Spot revealed he had gloved the ball before Prior took a catch low to the ground.
James Anderson, hitherto wicketless and bowling below his best, chipped in to have Peter Siddle caught behind for five and Nathan Lyon trapped in front for four as England made quick work of the Australian lower order and Stuart Broad finished things off by returning five for 71 when he had Ryan Harris (28) leg before wicket.
It was another poor session for the on-field umpires with four errors in total although on the other hand, the Decision Review System worked well - too well for Harris who, when he was hit on the pads by Broad, only needed to see one replay before walking off, along with the England team as Broad returned five for 71.
With that wicket being the last to fall, the unfortunate Tony Hill was left to reverse his decision and raise his finger to a deserted wicket with only Aleem Dar for company to complete Australia's collapse - they were 48 for five on the day.
England then looked to bat much more positively then they had in the first innings and were making inroads into Australia's lead when Joe Root was bowled by Harris for two. It continued his poor run of scores since his brilliant 180 at Lord's but in his defence, it was a delivery that not many could have done much about.
Alastair Cook hit three fours in a busy 22 in 37 balls before chasing a wide ball and edging Harris to Haddin while Jonathan Trott made an even more frenetic 23 in 29 only to lose his wicket to a short ball which he edged down the leg-side.
At 49 for three, the game was in the balance and it needed Kevin Pietersen (44) and Bell to come together and produce an excellent partnership which changed the complexion of the day.
They were more patient than their team-mates - as they had to be - but once they had come to terms with the pitch and got themselves in, began to turn the tables, Pietersen swatting away a number of attempts to unsettle him with the short ball and Bell profiting in the areas he usually does - third man and cover.
They took England to 123 for three at tea, after which Bell reached his half-century with two cover drives to the boundary but Pietersen was unable to join him, caught at cover by Rogers off a leading edge as Lyon dismissed him again.
Bell continued on his way and Australia were then hampered when Shane Watson limped off with what was later confirmed as hip and groin problems. Things really had turned full circle.
Jonny Bairstow cashed in to make 28 in 65 balls, hitting six fours, as his positivity looked like it would also bear rich fruit but frustratingly for him and England fans, he once again got himself in, and got himself out, caught behind off Lyon as he tried to force a backfoot shot through the covers.
Tim Bresnan's appearance ahead of Prior reignited the nightwatchman debate but unlike his last attempt, this time he did his job, staying in and making four in 21 balls. The attention was rightly on Bell, who worked Lyon away to reach his 20th Test century and fourth against Australia.
There had been plenty of challenging moments along the way, including when a short ball floored him as he took evasive action, but his innings may well have floored Australia's bid to avoid a series defeat.
With some variable bounce already causing a few problems for the batsmen, England will be confident that another session of batting could be all that is needed to be far enough ahead to put the game beyond Australia.
For that, and not for the first time in this series, they owe so much to Bell.
© Cricket World 2013