A thin line for Johnson, a rare failure for Bell
With Australia enjoying a relatively fruitful spell with the ball, Mitchell Johnson found Matt Prior's outside edge on 5, and Prior trooped off for a routine caught-behind. However, just as he was leaving the square, Aleem Dar - who had earlier attracted the unwarranted wrath of Ricky Ponting - gestured for him to hold on for a moment, and sent the decision upstairs for a second opinion. Sure enough, Dar's suspicion that Johnson had over-stepped was confirmed by the TV replay, and Prior returned to the crease as England's next batsman, Tim Bresnan, retreated to the dressing-room for a sit-down. "Mitch has just found out why the coaches keep rabbiting on at training about not bowling no balls," tweeted Australia's manager, Steve Bernard. "The frustrations of a bowler's life." It was Australia's 17th overstep of the series. England, by contrast, have done so just five times.
If the clamour for Ian Bell's promotion was justified by the latest episode of Paul Collingwood's troubled series, then his eventual appearance at No. 6 led to a rare and, frankly, unexpected failure. A Johnson short ball kept climbing high above Bell's eye-line, and an uncontrolled hook was top-edged to Peter Siddle at square leg. He departed for 1 from 13 balls, his first single-figure score of the series, but with the lead already pushing 200, it wasn't exactly make or break. The Bell of old would have cashed-in in such circumstances, and doubtless attracted accusations of soft runs. The new model Bell saves his runs for when they really matter ...
Jonathan Trott's remarkable appetite for runs against Australia continued with his third century in five Ashes Tests, and even on a day when the Aussie bowlers found a touch of assistance in the conditions, his technique and temperament could not be rattled by any of the men at Ponting's disposal. Aside from a Johnson lifter that spat at his gloves, and a tight run-out reprieve on 48, his only true moment of discomfort came in the 105th over, when he wafted a drive at Ben Hilfenhaus and inside-edged the ball straight onto the side of his knee. To a massive roar of approval from the success-starved Aussie crowd, Trott went down in the crease as if spanged by a crowbar, but after a lengthy bout of physio he resumed with only one aim in mind.
On a frustrating day for Ponting, a couple of things did go right. Ponting is often criticised for his tactics but he twice pulled the right rein with his bowling changes. Siddle was told to run in shortly after being involved in a Kevin Pietersen-inspired argument with Dar, and he collected Pietersen lbw in his first over back. Johnson came on in the same session and in his opening over tempted Collingwood to hook to Siddle at fine-leg. Not much went right for Ponting over the rest of the day.
Siddle started the morning with two wickets and was almost impossible to get away until Pietersen broke free briefly. Pietersen collected a crisp straight drive for four the ball before flicking past midwicket for a second boundary, and then added a quick single. When Trott ran a three from the final ball Siddle had given up 13 runs in six deliveries, after allowing only 18 from his previous 16 overs. At the end of the day he had 3 for 58 from 26.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo and Peter English is the Australasia editor