Ashes 2013: Ian Bell's ton puts England in position of strength at Chester-le-Street

A touch of class….Coming in to bat in a tough situation, Ian Bell essayed another ton to help England finish Day Three at 234 for five in the fourth Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Aug 11, 2013

England and Australia continued to fight for control on Day Three of the fourth Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street, Durham. Starting the day on 222 for five, Australia were bowled out for 270. In reply, England were rocked early until Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell’s 106-run stand rescued them. Australia may have felt they were back in the game when they saw the back of Pietersen, but Bell marched on to score his third hundred of this series which helped England finish the day on 234 for five — taking a 202-run lead.

Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin started the day for Australia and they hoped to take the lead soon after. However, Graeme Swann was given the ball early and he made an impact instantly. Taking a cue from Nathan Lyon, Swann came from around the wicket and it paid rich dividends. Haddin was trapped in front and the umpire gave him out. He took the review, but it was plumb in front. Then, the centurion Rogers was dismissed due to some brilliant work by Matt Prior. Swann drew Rogers forward, but he missed it and it lobbed off the pads. Prior came from behind the stumps and dived forward to take it inches off the ground. England reviewed the umpire’s call and Hot Spot showed that Rogers got a bit of glove on it.

Australia were yet to take the lead, but Ryan Harris’ spirited cameo helped Australia take a 32-run lead. However, James Anderson and Stuart Broad wiped off the tail to bowl Australia out for 270. The tourists had lost their last five wickets for 48. Broad completed his ninth five-wicket haul in Test cricket when he dismissed Harris leg-before to finish Australia’s innings.

When England commenced their innings, the conditions were still suiting the fast bowlers. Harris then used them to his advantage and snared the English top-order. Before lunch, Joe Root was cleaned up with a beauty as it just left him and shattered the off-stump. Alastair Cook looked a lot more positive in this innings, but he went to far. Having chased a widish one from Harris, he only managed to edge it to the wicket-keeper to give Australia their first success after lunch. Jonathan Trott followed soon after as he was done in by one that climbed and brushed his glove as it went to the wicket-keeper. England were now at a precarious 49 for three.

Pietersen and Bell — England’s best batsmen in the series — then started the recovery job. The great thing was that they were very positive and did not let the early wickets affect their approach. Bell was at his delicate best — essaying an audacious late cut through slips. Given the situation, it was brave of him to try that stroke. On the other hand, Pietersen was tested by a few short deliveries and he dealt with them well. However, there were a few he failed to control, but was lucky that they didn’t carry to the fielders in the deep. Throughout, there was this eagerness to dominate in both players. Pietersen even played the dominating pull to show that he was ready for the challenge.

As the pair constructed the partnership, England looked in a better position. They took England past hundred and also notched their 50-run partnership. Nathan Lyon came on and it was a battle of wits thereafter. Pietersen and Bell were just about warming up and hadn’t asserted themselves to the spinner. England went into lunch at 124 for three, having recovered from the early jolts.

As the players came back after lunch, Pietersen slowed down as the Australian bowlers bowled tight lines to him. Bell did most of the scoring and got to his fifty as well. At the other end, Pietersen was trying to force the issue and tried to single out Lyon. He was trying to work everything on the on-side even if it pitched way outside off-stump. On one occasion he managed an inside edge that went past Haddin and went to the boundary. However, the next time he tried something similar, he got an outside edge to the covers. The 106-run partnership had rescued England, but there still was a lot of work to be done.

In walked Jonny Bairstow, who needed runs. After a quiet start, he attacked Lyon by dancing down the track off consecutive balls to pick two boundaries. Later, he settled into his rhythm to the fast bowlers and essayed a few good strokes. At the other end, Bell was as sublime as ever. The glorious cover drives and the late cuts were a sight for sore eyes.

As Bell moved towards his hundred, the classy shots kept coming. A mere push through mid-off went for four as he moved into the 90s. Bairstow however fell as he tried to make room and push Lyon through the off-side. He only managed at edge to the wicket-keeper, which ended a 66-run stand with Bell. 

Tim Bresnan came in ahead of Prior to join Bell and see it through to the end of day’s play. Bell had a nervous moment at 97 when he tried to play a late cut, but it climbed on him and it just went past a diving Michael Clarke at third slip. He ran two to get to 99. The next ball was pushed through mid-on and Bell ran through for a single to complete his third century of this series. He became the 10th Englishman to get three hundreds in an Ashes series. 

This Test match has seen numerous momentum shifts, but Bell’s ton has certainly put England in a good position. There may be more surprises in store tomorrow, but for now Bell has the limelight. The lead of 202 is a sizeable one considering the conditions and the patterns in this Test match. If Australia are to win this game, they have bowl out England soon tomorrow.
 
Brief scores:

England 238 ( Alastair Cook 51; Nathan Lyon 4 for 42) and 234 for 5 (Ian Bell 105*; Ryan Harris 3 for 74) lead Australia 270 (Chris Rogers 110; Stuart Broad 5 for 71) by 202 runs.

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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)