Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2011

Cook and Bell build commanding lead


England 7 for 488 (Cook 189, Bell 115, Johnson 3-97) lead Australia 280 by 208 runs

England are well placed to earn their first series victory in Australia for 24 years, having already retained the Ashes, after a day of dominant batting at the SCG as they built a lead of 208. The record-breaking Alastair Cook led the way with 189, his third hundred of the series, and Ian Bell scored his first century against Australia with an elegant, albeit controversial, 115.

Cook and Bell added 154 for the sixth wicket in the match-defining partnership and England's command was cemented when Matt Prior joined to add 107 for the seventh with Bell. It was another chastening day for Australia, who couldn't stem the flow of runs, and for Michael Clarke who now really knows the challenge ahead if he is the long-term captain.

As he did at Brisbane, Cook went through a host of records and by the time he fell had 766 series runs, leaving him second behind Wally Hammond's 905 in the 1928-29 Ashes for England batsmen. Incredibly, in an era when there are few tour matches, he also passed 1000 first-class runs for the trip and has now also spent longer at the crease in a series than any other England player.

For Bell this was the innings he'd been waiting his career to play, converting his pristine form into that cherished hundred. He has never played better than on this trip and again he oozed class. His cover drives continually bisected the field with timing to beat the deep sweepers but it wasn't an innings without controversy. On 67 he was given caught behind off an inside edge only for the decision to be overturned on review, even though there didn't appear to be conclusive evidence, and Snicko later proved Bell had edged the ball.

He was also dropped on 84, a firmly-struck return catch to Steve Smith, but was rarely troubled and reached his hundred with a back-foot push through the covers. While Bell didn't sweat much in the 90s, Cook had a nervous wait on 99 when he flicked a delivery from Michael Beer towards short leg where Phil Hughes claimed the catch and the Australians began celebrating. Cook, though, stood his ground and TV replays showed the ball clearly bounced and Hughes was unsure before joining in late with the appeal.

It was the second time Beer had been denied Cook's wicket after yesterday's no-ball and in the spinner's next over, Cook worked a single into the leg side to reach his hundred. He'd had a few other tricky moments, when he edged Shane Watson short of second slip on 87 then after passing his hundred nearly chipped Beer to midwicket, but it was a commanding display as he worked his way through the record books once again.

England really put their foot on Australia's throat when the second new ball was taken shortly before lunch as Cook and Bell both took advantage of the extra hardness. Clarke couldn't find a combination that worked as he made seven bowling changes in 14 overs. Ben Hilfenhaus's first over back went for eight then Bell played two perfect straight drives off Peter Siddle having taken time to play himself in. Bell knew this was the chance to make his good form count when it could make a real difference.

He had so much time to play against the quicks and toyed with Beer's length as he waited for anything short. Cook was also positive against the left-armer despite having a few more issues from the footmarks and drove impressively through the covers. Bell reached his fifty by using his feet against Smith - finally given a bowl in the 101st over - and launching him straight down the ground. By tea even Mike Hussey was having a bowl.

Cook looked set to join Hammond as the only England batsman with two double hundreds in a series but finally edged a drive to Hussey in the gully. However, his dismissal barely hampered England's progress as Prior played the perfect role to build England's lead at a swift pace. He lofted Smith for six and peppered the off side in a 54-ball half-century and, after passing his hundred, Bell joined in with ever more expressive strokeplay until edging Mitchell Johnson to slip.

The only sour note on England's day was another failure for Paul Collingwood who can only dream of the form shown by Cook and Bell. He found the middle of his bat largely elusive during a 41-ball stay and Johnson's first delivery of the day had reared to take the glove but looped fine of short leg. Collingwood wanted to be positive, which brought his downfall when he advanced at Beer and miscued his lofted drive towards mid-on where Hilfenhaus took a back-peddling catch.

It was a huge moment of relief for Beer who gave the umpire a quick look, just to make sure, and this time was able to celebrate his first Test wicket. At that point the match was fascinatingly poised but it was the last time Australia had any grip on proceedings. Now they face a mighty task to escape with a draw.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    spritzertime I don't agree that whether the decision was right or wrong is up for debate, whether you know it or not, it is a law of cricket that the benefit of the doubt goes to the batsman,

  • paul on January 6, 2011, 0:51 GMT

    @Frank Christie I know what you're saying mate, but pro sports seem to be about the bottom line and that is winning, all sports have turned more and more like this, like you say ,financially too much at stake ,as well as media and fan pressure.

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 0:19 GMT

    As much I am an English supporter, I feel sorry for the Aussies. But I have to say they bought this upon themselves. The Selection Panel is the biggest joke, so is the coach and the team. If I can I would persuade Pidge to be the bowling coach. Shane Warne as full time coach. Mark Taylor or Steve Waugh for batting coach.

    The entire selection panel needs to be fired including Greg Chappell.And the selection panel must have Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Adam Gilchrist. It's a fast paced game and Aussie team requires the ones that will stand up to this rapid change. Right now we have bunch of seat warmers in the selection panel

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 0:01 GMT

    @landl47 .... "but to the players it's their livelihood" you wrote. very much the point sir.

  • Mike on January 5, 2011, 23:06 GMT

    Totally cynical from Bell. Was correctly given out, knew he was out, and successfully gamed the referral system. Poor from the umpires too. Decisions are supposed to be overturned only when there is clear evidence that the original decision was wrong. This was the first time is the series that a correct decision was overturned, so very different to other situations such as Clarke in Brisbane

  • Stuart on January 5, 2011, 23:02 GMT

    I've just heard of this wonderful alternative to Snicko technology - apparently it's called the human ear. Aleem Dar used it when he gave Bell out first time round. Seriously though, if UDRS is always going to be used, why doesn't the ICC scrap the expensive neutral umpires program, use home umpires everywhere and put the money saved into improving the UDRS technology and using it in every test match?

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2011, 22:44 GMT

    gentlemen (and ladies). i'm not taking anything away from england who have played the most superb & riveting cricket all summer and fully deserve the urn. australia have been dismal. my point is, do you remember the days when batsmen walked ?. whether they were from the west indies, pakistan etc. the whole game lifted. it doesn't happen anymore. there's too much at stake. financially mostly. less tattoos and more sportsmanship i say.

  • Hutty86 on January 5, 2011, 21:53 GMT

    Even the Shermanator's making runs! RIP Aussie Cricket!

  • Mick on January 5, 2011, 21:46 GMT

    @robert gogerly weather the right desision was made is up for debate but you are very wrong about one thing the benifit of the doute is a common statment used by commentators but it dosent appear anywhere in the actual rules of cricket (bit of an old wives tale)

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    As cricket lovers,we Aussies have been privileged to watch Cook this ashes series. If only we had a player who could mirror his determination to succeed. Broadcasting brickbat of the day goes to Mark Taylor who suggested that Australia was" half a batsman short". Guess we have been watching different games this summer with both Clarke and Ponting wasting valuable oxygen in the middle. Maybe the combination of that two was the half a batman he was talking about. As for our bowling - its woeful with standout Hilfenhaus getting a renewed contract would be a joke.

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