Smith Triple-Strike Edges Australia Ahead After Bell Ton
England 287-7 (Bell 109, Smith 3-18) v
Second Ashes Test, Lord’s, day one
An excellent innings of 109 from Ian Bell was bookended by three wickets at each end as England closed the opening day of the second Ashes Test on 289 for seven.
While England will be pleased to have recovered from a nightmare start that saw them slip to 28 for three, Australia will probably be marginally the happier of the two sides as Steve Smith’s late spell of three for 18 tilted the match back in their favour on what looks a pretty flat pitch.
Smith was initially only introduced for a two-over spell prior to the taking of the second new ball, but struck in his opening over and was rewarded with a further five overs. The ball that got rid of centurion Bell when on 109 would have made England’s blond leg-spinning tormentor of old proud. It drifted in just enough before turning sharply away and grazing the outside edge of Bell’s bat on its way through to a grateful Michael Clarke at slip.
The dismissal, and England’s late wobble, shouldn’t detract from another fine innings by Bell, however. He brought up his third century in as many Ashes Tests following ones at Sydney and Trent Bridge and helped the hosts recover from their poor start.
The manner that he played the cut shot off Ashton Agar, late and evading the backward-point fielder, stood out among his usual array of elegant shots, as did a punch down the ground.
Before that, Australia's seamers, particularly Ryan Harris, had found enough movement to make a dent in England's top-order. Harris had Joe Root trapped LBW and Kevin Pietersen caught behind off a good-length delivery that just shaped away, while Shane Watson, brought into the attack early by Michael Clarke, accounted for Alastair Cook with an in-ducker.
Bell's first ally in England’s fightback was Warwickshire team-mate Jonathan Trott. The pair made the most of almost perfect batting conditions - a baking hot day, an easy-paced pitch and an outfield that was lush enough to deny Australia reverse swing - and added 99 either side of lunch.
Both capitalised on the frequent boundary-balls provided by Australia’s bowlers; James Pattinson being a particularly persistent offender.
The tourists were not helped by the struggles and eventual absence of fresh-faced spinner Ashton Agar. He delivered 13 largely unthreatening overs before succumbing to the leg injury that had plagued him for much of the afternoon.
Trott finally departed when top-edging a pull-shot off the recalled Ryan Harris to the also-recalled Usman Khawaja. He had made an unusually brisk 58 off just 87 balls but will be annoyed to have missed out on a century that was there for the taking.
Bell made no such mistake, despite almost losing new partner Jonny Bairstow on his way to three figures. Bairstow was bowled playing across the line of another straight ball, but received a reprieve when the umpire asked for a replay of Peter Siddle’s position on the crease - his foot shown to be grounded on, rather than behind, the line hence a no-ball.
That error of millimetres on Siddle’s part would have been, along with Bell’s hundred, the day’s talking point had it not been for Smith. He caused a complete re-write by dismissing Bell, Bairstow and Matt Prior to balls of varying merit. Prior fell victim to a slider and was caught by Brad Haddin, while Bairstow’s stay at the crease was ended at 67 when he drove a low full-toss back to a disbelieving Smith.
Prior’s demise brought James Anderson to the crease as night-watchman for Stuart Broad, perhaps emphasising how much England think their lower-order - one strengthened by the recall of Tim Bresnan at the expense of Steven Finn - need to go on and advance their total tomorrow.
© Cricket World 2013