By Abhijit Banare
Dec 16, 2013
A fighting 99-run fifth-wicket partnership between Ben Stokes (72 not out) and Ian Bell (60) took the third Test into the fifth day as England end Day Four on 251 for five. Australia are just five wickets away from regaining the urn while England are still 253 away.
The hosts put up an aggressive batting performance in the morning to quickly race ahead to 369 from 235 at the back of Shane Watson’s ton. While bowling though, Australia were patient as they knew England would keep offering them chances under pressure with a gigantic target of 504 in front of them. After the early dismissal of Alastair Cook, the rest of the batsmen ensured their wicket wasn’t gifted away.
But the Australian pacers didn’t relent as they bowled a probing line and length to keep the batsmen in check. Michael Carberry was yet again impressive playing close to the body and not giving much opportunity. But Carberry couldn’t sustain the resistance for long and missed delivery which was coming in to him hitting his back pad. Throughout this series, Carberry has worked hard but failed to sustain it for long.
It seemed like a slow death for the visitors who just couldn’t hold themselves despite planning to put forth a strong resistance. Mitchell Johnson managed to get Joe Root just before tea. However, Australia were elated after getting the big fish — Kevin Pietersen after tea. Playing positively against Nathan Lyon eventually undid Pietersen’s effort. He lofted Lyon after hitting a six and was caught brilliantly in the deep by Ryan Harris. A defeat loomed large on Day Four but Bell and Stokes kept the Aussies at bay with fighting partnership.
Bell trusted the bounce of the wicket and went for his shots confidently. Stokes too matched Bell after settling in. Both of them were fearless in pulling the ball and scored boundaries on a few short ones. The partnership flattened the aggression of the pacers and the wicket appeared much more flatter despite the huge cracks remaining a concern.
The partnership helped England look settled and Clarke had a worried look on his face. Just when it looked that the two might take this game into Day Five, Bell played a casual upper-cut giving Brad Haddin a simple catch. Bell was fuming with himself for giving that feather touch as the two were cruising along and Australia looked tired having gone for few runs. Bell’s dismissal infused more energy in the hosts as they aimed to finish off the innings.
But Stokes continued and played well and completed his maiden Test half-century. Prior though looked tentative but survived till the end of the day.
Despite the partnership, Australia still have the match very much in control. It has been Australia’s day. Shane Watson clobbered the England bowling with a breathtaking performance getting to his fourth Test ton. And George Bailey finished things in style with a record 28-run over off James Anderson equaling Brian Lara’s record of scoring most runs in an over in Tests. The humiliation didn’t stop there. England skipper Cook was bowled on the first ball of the second innings. Carberry, Root, Pietersen didn’t hold on to give England some chance of fighting back.
Prior and Stokes are the last recognised pair on the crease and Australia will be eager to run through the remaining wickets and seal the series.
Australia 385 (David Warner 60, Steve Smith 111, Brad Haddin 55; Stuart Broad 3 for 100, James Anderson 2 for 60) and 369 for 6 decl. (David Warner 112, Shane Watson 103) lead England 251 (Alastair Cook 72, Michael Carberry 43; Ryan Harris 3 for 48, Peter Siddle 3 for 46) and 251 for 5 (Ian Bell 60, Ben STtokes 72*; Shane Watson 1 for 31) by 253 runs.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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