Third Day of the Third Investec Test at Old Trafford: England, 294 for seven (Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Starc 3-75) trail Australia 527-7 declared (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66*, Haddin 65*, Swann 5-159) by 233 runs
Cricket supporters can be a demanding lot. For two days and one session the England followers at Emirates Old Trafford hoped, nay expected, to see England dominate Australia. Instead, it was the spectators wearing the yellow baseball caps who had the most to cheer as Michael Clarke’s batsmen piled up the runs and his bowlers kept the pressure on Cook’s top order.
At lunch on Saturday England were 119 for four and still needed 209 runs to avoid the possibility of being asked to follow on. Those of us who wanted a properly competitive Ashes series were quite pleased by this; the Three Lions diehards were subdued.
The eighth session of this game, though, brought satisfaction to the English patriots. Ian Bell, who is in the primest of form, and Kevin Pietersen, who never seems far from flaying an attack until it begs for mercy, added 92 runs in 29 overs, leaving the home side just 117 runs of their first objective. By the close, however, Michael Clarke’s tireless attack had reclaimed the initiative by taking three key wickets and the home side ended the day still 233 runs in arrears. They may yet avoid the follow-on but this has so far been a Test to revive Australian spirits.
Nevertheless Bell and Pietersen had changed the tempo of the innings in the afternoon. Gradually they began to bully the Australian attack, Pietersen hitting the excellent off-spinner Nathan Lyon for successive sixes to go to his 50 in 71 balls, a fine effort for a batsman who has not been in the best nick this series. Bell knows he is not a destroyer in the style of his fifth-wicket partner – who is? – but he rather took his cue from him on this glorious Saturday afternoon, also hitting Lyon for a straight six and following this with consecutive cover-drive and back-cut fours off MItchell Starc. When Bell cover drove Peter Siddle for three on the point of tea, he reached his own fifty, brought up the hundred partnership and sealed a period of play which altered the atmosphere of the contest.
The Australian were nobody’s whipping boys, though. None of Clarke’s five main bowlers performed poorly and all of them induced false shots. Inevitably, however, the tourists had another unpleasant brush with the Decision Review System. When Pietersen was 62 he was hit on the pad when well down the track to Shane Watson and umpire Tony Hill quite reasonably gave him not out; had Clarke opted to call for a review, Pietersen would have been gone. Clarke’s feelings when coach Darren Lehmann indicated this fact to him from the pavilion can only be guessed at.
After tea Bell was bowled for 60 by a good ball from the admirable Ryan Harris and Starc accounted for both Bairstow and Pietersen. The Yorkshireman was undone by a ball from which was pushed across him and edged to Watson at first slip while Pietersen was beaten by one that come back off the seam and trapped him lbw on the crease for a 206-ball 113. This was the England No4’s 23rd Test hundred but his first at Old Trafford and he was given a warm ovation on his return to the pavilion.
The morning session had been controlled largely by Clarke’s bowlers, who took the prime wickets of Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook and conceded only 67 runs off 27 accurate overs. Trott, who looked out of touch thoughout his 40 minute-stay at the crease, was taken at slip by Clarke off Harris when failing to get in line to a good ball, and Cook was splendidly caught down the leg side by a diving Brad Haddin for 60. The England skipper has yet to rule this series in anything like the way he achieved in the last one.
Picture (c) EMPICS Sport