Ashes 2013: Talking point from Day 3 of Old Trafford Test

Kevin Pietersen (left) and Ian Bell added 115 runs for the fifth wicket on the third day of the Old Trafford Test © Getty Images

On a topsy-turvy day of cricket, Australia finished on top again. Despite a scratchy half-century from Alastair Cook and a typical Kevin Pietersen masterpiece, the Australian pacers did well on a flat wicket to put England in a precarious position. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at the day’s proceedings.

Alastair Cook’s half-century

Continuing from an overnight score of 52 for two, Alastair Cook had to guard his wicket and the possibility of an England collapse. The pressure of holding the innings together was mounting as the Australian pacers bowled at testing line and length in search of their wicket. They gave away just 12 runs before Ryan Harris struck to remove Jonathan Trott. Cook, however, continued to dig in and went on to score his half-century in the company of Kevin Pietersen.

Ian Bell – Kevin Pietersen stand

Following Cook’s dismissal, England were in need of one big partnership that could keep Australia from chipping away at the wickets and put the home side in a tricky situation. When Cook departed, Pietersen, who started confidently, was on 28. In Ian Bell, he found an able ally to build an important partnership that would bail their side out of trouble. A 115-run stand followed.

The Review dilemma

Having dismissed Cook with the score at 110, the Australian pacers were looking to pick up another quick wicket and put the home side on the back foot. They came very close to doing so, but a dilemma cost them the opportunity. A delivery from Shane Watson, pitched on off stump hit Pietersen in line. However, the height and Pietersen’s forward stride put a doubt in the umpire’s mind. Watson seemed convinced but Clarke, after a bit of deliberation, decided to go against it. Replays showed that the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. Pietersen got a big let off and capitalized on it later.

The KP masterpiece

On Aug 4, 2012, Pietersen slammed 149 against South Africa at Headingley and followed it up with a press conference where he spoke of his plans of quitting Test cricket due to a hectic schedule. A year later, he has managed another century, and it has come at a crucial hour. Just when Australia were looking to get on top in the third Test, a positive knock from Pietersen has kept England in the game. He was dismissed towards the end of the final session but his hundred has taken the home side closer to avoiding follow on.
 
Despite a couple of good knocks from the Englishmen, the Australians have still managed to pick up seven wickets, five of them falling on Day Three. They have a healthy lead of 234 and will need to bowl the home side out within a session and take the game by the scruff of its neck to stay alive. Can they sustain this domination? Or will England get a lifeline through Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, the two men at the crease? Day four can prove to be make or break for Australia in terms of this series.

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)