The day started with Australia 5 down, and still some way behind England’s first innings total. Shane Watson was in with night watchman Nathan Lyon, but the Australian all-rounder didn’t last long. Once again, he fell in the thirties, and once again, he was out LBW. Broad and Wood continued their good work from day 2, and when Watson played across his front pad, things were looking pretty good for the hosts. Wood continued to bowl well, and got his reward when he picked up his second wicket. Firing a full, straight ball in at pace was enough for Australia’s night watchman.
James Anderson then came into the attack, taking the second new ball, and showed his class. He had the dangerous Brad Haddin in all sorts of trouble, and it wasn’t long before he had his edging behind. Johnson was the next to go, chipping Broad straight to mid wicket. At one to go, some more pessimistic England fans might have feared a century stand for the last wicket, but Anderson soon had Starc caught in the slips. The lower middle order had been wrapped up without much bother, as England took 5-44 this morning. England would have been chuffed to bits with a lead of 122.
It was now over to the England batsmen to try and press home the advantage. Surely anything over 350 would have represented a really tough chase for Australia on what was not an easy pitch to bat. Unfortunately Alastair Cook didn’t last until lunch, as he was caught at backward point for just 12. Still England’s session though, without a doubt.
After lunch, England lost another wicket, as Gary Ballance gloved one off Hazlewood. That brought Ian Bell to the crease, desperate to try and regain some form. He and Lyth looked comfortable together, until Lyth lost his battle with Nathan Lyon. After slog sleeping him for six, the opener was caught brilliantly by Clarke at slip in the thirties. Though out of form, Ian Bell certainly never lacks elegance, and today was no different. The only difference was that he passed fifty for the first time in 9 innings. He drove exceptionally well, and looked back to his fluent best.
He and the ever-reliable Root continued to the game away from the visitors, and by the time Bell was bowled by Johnson for 60 the lead was some 292 – already a big target. Root then followed, also making 60, as Stokes looked to continue the hosts’ dominance.
At this point, Australia managed to claw themselves back into the contest. The wrapped up the innings for 289, leaving a target of 412. Despite the best efforts of Stokes and Mark Wood, Mitchell Starc and co managed to swing the momentum back towards the visitors ever so slightly. Australia would have to bat exceptionally well to win this one, but there is still a chance. This is the Ashes, and these are the Aussies. Don’t get me wrong, England are well on top, but it might just be a little worrying should the visitors get to 200-1.
In terms of talking points, the positives lie with England. Number one – the tail got well and truly ‘mopped up’. This has been a problem for ages, so wrapping up the innings in such convincing fashion, first time of asking in the series is a fantastic effort. Number two – Ian Bell is back in form. He always looks good, but today he was good. He was fluent and confident, and should be able to push on from here, and take a lot from his 60 runs in the second innings at the Swalec.
I’m not going to hide my emotions any more. I’m an England fan, and I really hope we can go one up. We have as good a chance as any here, and if the bowlers can perform to their first innings standards, then there is absolutely no reason why we won’t go to Lords with an early advantage.