By Shrikant Shankar
Aug 23, 2013
Half-centuries from Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen guided England to 247 for four at stumps on Day Three of the fifth Ashes 2013 Test at The Oval. Root was dismissed for 68 and Pietersen was dismissed for 50. England trail Australia’s 492 for nine declared by 245 runs. Ian Bell is unbeaten on 29 and Chris Woakes is on 15 going into Day Four.
It was a slow day overall as only 215 runs were scored despite almost 99 overs being bowled to compensate for the entire lunch session lost on Day Two due to rain.
England began the day with their overnight score of 32 for no loss, trailing Australia by 460 runs. Root got things going as he clipped a straight delivery from Ryan Harris through mid-wicket to get the first four of Day Three. Alastair Cook then played a square drive to a full and wide delivery from Harris to get his first four of the day. Cook and Root got to their first 50-run partnership of the series.
There was a big appeal for leg-before as Cook played across the line to a straight delivery from Harris and missed. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena said not out but Australia captain Michael Clarke asked for the review. Replays showed that the ball would have hit the stumps, but it pitched just outside leg-stump.
Immediately after the drinks break, Cook (25) poked at a wide delivery from Harris and edged it to Brad Haddin behind the stumps. Haddin took a good low catch to his left. Haddin then moved just two behind Rodney Marsh’s world record of 28 dismissals for a wicketkeeper in a Test series.
Root looked to get better as his innings progressed. After getting a few fours, he pulled a short delivery from Peter Siddle for a single to reach his third Test half-century. As lunch was taken, England’s score was at 97 for one with Root and Jonathan Trott in the middle.
Root kept the run-flow going with some fours off James Faulkner. As soon as Root and Trott added 50 runs for the second wicket, Nathan Lyon dismissed the former. Root top-edged a sweep and Shane Watson took a simple catch at short fine-leg. The ball just bounced a little bit more than usual.
Pietersen opened his scoring with a gorgeous straight drive for four through mid-off of Mitchell Starc. Trott then almost gifted his wicket as he flicked a short-of-a-length delivery from Starc to the leg side. The ball just landed in front of Siddle at long-leg. By this time Lyon was getting the ball to spin and bounce.
Pietersen was then almost run-out twice. First he pushed a full delivery from Starc to short extra-cover and took off for a single. David Warner picked the ball up, turned while jumping and threw in mid-air and struck the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Aleem Dar referred it to the third umpire, but Pietersen had grounded his bat and was in. Then a few overs later he pushed a Lyon delivery towards mid-on and went for another single. Again Warner was the fielder, but this time his throw went way over the stumps and Pietersen was safe despite being short by a long distance.
In between all the risky running, Pietersen was also finding it hard to read Lyon. He edged a delivery onto his pads and the ball just evaded Steven Smith at forward short-leg. Immediately he went hard at a length delivery next up and missed. The ball hit the pads, but Pietersen was slightly down the wicket and replays showed that it would have missed the leg-stump. Seeing the ball spin, Clarke brought on Smith to bowl his leg-spin.
Pietersen and Trott then targeted Smith and got one four each. As tea was approaching, Clarke brought Starc into the attack and he dismissed Trott (40) leg-before. The batsman asked for the review, but replays showed that the ball was hitting the stumps after pitching in line with the leg-stump. Ian Bell got off the mark with a four towards the point region. England reached tea with their score at 181 for three.
After the interval, Pietersen got to his 32nd Test half-century with a four towards fine-leg. He under-edged a short delivery from Faulkner while trying to pull. The half-century, which came in 127 balls, was Pietersen’s third slowest in Tests. Pietersen then edged a full and wide delivery from Starc and Watson took the catch at first slip. There was a doubt whether the ball bounced after getting the edge, but replays showed that the ball pitched first and then took edge.
Woakes then got his first runs in Test cricket with a four towards the covers from the very first ball he faced. In doing so, he became the first England batsman to score a four off the first ball he faced since Richard Johnson against Zimbabwe in 2003 at Chester-le-Street. Woakes then scored two more fours to race ahead. But in the last 10 overs, both Bell and Woakes seemed content with playing for stumps. There was a point where Woakes took a single to prevent five maidens from being bowled in-a-row. When stumps were called, England were at 247 for four, trailing Australia by 245 runs.
Australia 492 for 9 decl. (Shane Watson 176, Steven Smith 138*, Ryan Harris 33; James Anderson 4 for 95, Graeme Swann 2 for 95) lead England 247 for four (Joe Root 68, Jonathan Trott 40, Kevin Pietersen 50; Mitchell Starc 2 for 60) by 245 runs.
(Shrikant Shankar previously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)