Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell kept Australia at bay with bold fifties but England still had plenty of work to do in the third Test at Old Trafford yesterday.
At tea on the third day, Ashes-holders England were 211 for four – a deficit of 316 runs – and still needing a further 117 runs to reach a total of 328 that would see them avoid the follow-on
But they had at least denied Australia who, at 2-0 down with three to play, have to win this match to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes, a wicket in the session.
Pietersen was 78 not out and Bell, who’d already made two hundreds this series, 51 not out with the fifth-wicket duo’s partnership so far worth 101.
The hosts resumed yesterday on 52 for two after Australia had made 527 for seven declared on the back of captain Michael Clarke’s commanding 187.
It was Clarke’s highest Test score against England and the highest in an overseas Test by any Australian since nightwatchman Jason Gillespie’s extraordinary 201 not out against Bangladesh seven years ago.
England captain Alastair Cook was 36 not out and Jonathan Trott two not out.
However, Trott was out for five with Pietersen replacing him.
Meanwhile left-hander Cook completed a 138-ball fifty including seven fours.
Pietersen, after a nervy start, began to find his touch with two well-pulled fours in successive balls from left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc.
But shortly before lunch Starc had Cook caught superbly for 62 by diving wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, who held a right-handed chance off a genuine glance.
Then Bell, on four, survived an appeal for a catch by Haddin off Starc with the ‘Snicko’ device, indicating he had got a thin edge.
At lunch, England were 119 for four with Pietersen 33 not out and Bell unbeaten on four.
Pietersen then attacked Nathan Lyon as he completed a 71-ball fifty.
Bell followed suit by driving Lyon for a six before he drove Starc to the extra-cover fence and next ball deliberately late cut him for four behind square.
All-rounder Shane Watson, with the first ball of a new spell, appealed for lbw against the advancing Pietersen, then on 62.
Tony Hill ruled in the batsman’s favour and Australia opted against a review only for the Decision Review System to indicate Pietersen would have been out had they challenged the New Zealand umpire’s decision.
Australia took the new ball with England 198 for four off 81 overs but, three balls later, Bell drove Starc down the ground, with his subsequent three off Siddle seeing him to a 93-ball fifty.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.
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