Draw Looks Inevitable After Slow-Moving Day
Australia 492-9d (Watson 176) v
England 247-4 (Root 68)
Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval
An attritional third day at The Oval saw England end just 46 runs shy of avoiding the follow-on on 247 for four in their first innings. Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen both made stodgy half-centuries as Australia’s bowlers struggled for regular breakthroughs on the still-flat pitch.
Alastair Cook and Joe Root began the day at the crease for England and progressed steadily with relatively few alarms; a story that effectively became the theme of the day. Cook did suffer one scare in the 30th over when struck on the pad by Ryan Harris, but Australia’s use of the review to overturn Kumar Dharmasena’s not out decision proved ill-judged.
The following over, though, Harris had his man as Cook poked tentatively outside his off-stump and edged through to Brad Haddin to depart for 25. Jonathan Trott the joined Root and the two batted through until lunch without further loss. Root reached 50 for only the second time in the series to lay to rest, at least for the moment, concerns about his place at the top of England’s batting order.
Unfortunately, he was unable to press on to three figures and fell to a top-edged sweep shot off Nathan Lyon which found Shane Watson at short fine-leg. What followed was an impressive spell of off-spin bowling from Lyon at the new batsman Kevin Pietersen. Bowling around the wicket, he repeatedly caused Pietersen problems, but Pietersen largely reined in his natural attacking instincts and survived.
Trott’s long vigil was brought to an end at 40 off his 134th delivery when Mitchell Starc had him trapped LBW. The ball pitched on leg-stump and straightened enough to hit leg according to both umpire Aleem Dar and Hawkeye, which was called for once Trott decided to review the decision. The umpiring in this match, thus far, has certainly been much better than earlier in the series; perhaps demonstrating what a tough job it is and that even the best, such as Dar, can have bad match.
Pietersen completed one of his slower Test fifties after tea but was soon walking off after edging a full ball to Watson at slip. He had enjoyed a verbal joust with Clarke earlier, but that was about the only time that the tempo of the game moved out of first gear all day. England’s method can, of course, be justified. They have already won the series and don’t want to hand Australia a morale-boosting win ahead of the return series this winter.
Pietersen’s dismissal brought debutant Chris Woakes to the crease to partner the ever-present Ian Bell and the he welcomed his first ball from Starc by driving it square for four.
Woakes certainly enjoyed a better first hour of Test cricket with the bat than with the ball and ended on 15 not out, with Bell on 29. England had scored 215 runs in the 98 overs that were bowled in the day and, with rain forecast for tomorrow, it is hard to see this match ending in anything other than a draw.
© Cricket World 2013