After another absorbing day of cricket unfolded at a boisterous SSE SWALEC, England were left pondering the extent of their advantage.
If you had asked an England fan which side was in the ascendency with the hosts’ score 170/3, with Ian Bell and Joe Root looking untroubled, the answer would have been obvious.
Ian Bell of England acknowledges his half century.
Yet a fightback staged by the Australians – one England should have expected given Darren Lehmann’s side recent record – pinned back English (and Welsh) hopes of a straightforward conclusion to this enthralling encounter. England closed on 289 all out, leading by 410.
Late wickets for Nathan Lyon who was gifted the scalps of Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad and James Anderson in the evening session clawed back Australia who were punished so harshly earlier in the day. First, Anderson’s command of the Dukes ball concluded the tourists’ innings in swift fashion; then, Bell and Root’s half-centuries appeared to have put England in an unassailable position.
But the Aussies are – and always have been – a resilient bunch. The dismissal of Shane Watson in unhappy circumstances, when Marais Erasmus raised his finger for a questionable umpires-call LBW, triggered a collapse that saw out-of-sorts Brad Haddin, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood all depart before lunch. Anderson and Co. were on song.
So too were the Australian quick bowlers, continuously fighting to stay in the game. Mitchell Starc had Cook caught at point and then Hazlewood brushed one off Gary Ballance’s gloves to briefly fritter away England’s 122 first innings lead.
Stuart Broad skies one off Nathan Lyon.
Root and Bell came together and looked unflustered, confirming England’s strong position. Many were waiting for a declaration some time tomorrow morning, none will be necessary now. Bell was cleaned up by Johnson, Root by Hazlewood, before Buttler, Broad and Ben Stokes were sloppily sent packing. Moeen Ali then fell in the final seven minutes, nicking behind off Johnson before Lyon got Anderson to finish with 4/75 to give Australia a sniff.
It is easy to forget England were 43/3 on the first morning and facing a situation with the ball when Australia compiled 180/2 in thier first innings. So the weight of their achievements on an exciting third day should not be undervalued. It remains to be seen whether The SSE SWALEC pitch – derided by some for being “too flat” – will stay that way in the fourth innings. England’s current lead of 411 is formidable.