Saturday 20 July 2013 

England Seize Complete Control of Lord's Test

Joe Root batted throughout the day and reached his second Test century.
 
He was joined in the morning by Tim Bresnan.
 
And then in the afternoon and evening by Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow (right).
© Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic *3
 

England 361 & 333-5 (Root 178no) v
Australia 128 (Swann 5-44)
Second Ashes Test, Lord’s, day three

England gained complete control of the second Ashes Test on day three at Lord’s. Any thoughts of a wobble following last night’s Peter Siddle triple-strike were soon forgotten as Joe Root and Tim Bresnan took them through the first session unscathed.

Root, who it must be remembered should have been caught late yesterday evening, then kicked on in the afternoon, reaching three figures for the first time since being promoted to open, while Ian Bell benefited from an early reprieve to keep him company and was only denied a second century of the match when he slapped a Steve Smith long-hop to mid-wicket.

Root and Bresnan began cautiously at the start of the day and looked determined not to give Australia’s bowlers a sniff. Root unveiled a brace of on-drives to light up the morning session, but otherwise there was little of note in what must rank as the least eventful session of the series thus far. Only 83 runs were scored in 31 overs, but importantly England hadn’t lost a wicket and Australia were all but out of the contest.

After the break, things were scarcely more fluid. James Pattinson ended Tim Bresnan’s dogged innings at 38 by tempting him into a pull that found Chris Rogers at square-leg. England’s use of the night-watchman, questionable at the time, had paid dividends for the second time in the match.

There was then time for the third umpire to provide a brief moment of controversy. Ian Bell edged a catch to Steve Smith when he had scored just three, but remained at the crease, unsure as the whether the ball had carried. Tony Hill adjudged the replays to be inconclusive and Bell was given not out, much to the consternation of the Australian fielders and whoever was tweeting from the Cricket Australia Twitter account.

The afternoon session had yielded even fewer runs than the first. Just 57 from 27 overs, but England had now firmly cemented their advantage. A bolder side may have looked to have pressed on with a view to declaring in the final hour of the day, but that has never been the way of this England team.

Instead, Root and Bell were left to take advantage of the twin-pronged spin attack of Ashton Agar and Steve Smith in the evening. Michael Clarke spurned the opportunity of the second new ball, seemingly saving his pace bowlers for tenser situations ahead.

Bell upped the tempo and looked destined for twin centuries at Lord’s, only to find Chris Rogers at mid-wicket when on 74. Root then went past 150 and hit two sixes in a single overs from Smith just before the close. He finished on 178 and will surely be allowed to reach his double-hundred tomorrow, at which point England will declare.

Several milestones were passed in the final part of the day. The lead went past 404, Australia’s highest ever run chase in Test history, and the 418 for seven that the West Indies made against them to set a new world record in 2003. Then the landmark of the highest run chase in all first-class cricket - West Zone’s 541 in 2010 - was overhauled in the dying moments of the day. All that remains is the highest fourth innings total of all time in Tests - the 654 for five that England made in the ‘timeless’ Test of 1939. Surely, though, the declaration will come before then.

The pitch, by no means a minefield, is continuing to provide appreciable turn. What’s more, there is enough pace and bounce to suggest that Graeme Swann will find things easier than he did in the second innings at Trent Bridge, where the pitch just got slower as the game progressed. With little chance of rain, and two days still to play, it is hard to see the result being anything other than England win.

© Cricket World 2013