Bell and Broad take control as controversy erupts
England 215 and 326 for 6 (Bell 95*, Broad 47*) lead Australia 280 by 261 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England will be convinced that they finally broke Australia in a heated final session at Trent Bridge, that the 261-run lead established by the end of the third day is already enough to secure victory in the first Investec Test. Australia will suspect as much, but will cloak it in a sense of resentment that could linger all summer long.
That England achieved such luxury, after an intense battle for supremacy over more than two sessions, owed everything to the serenity of Ian Bell, whose understated innings must be ranked as one of his best, and the effrontery of Stuart Broad, on 37, who shamelessly brazened it out when he was caught at slip, cutting the debutant left-arm spinner, Ashton Agar, only for the umpire Aleem Dar to be misled by a further deflection off the gloves of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and turn down the appeal.
Australia were desperate for a wicket: at 297 for 6, on a warm, hazy day, England led by 232, the game tilting towards them. But walking has been almost unheard of in Test matches for 40 years or more and once the initial indignation has died down, it is pointless protesting about what has generally become a convention of the game.
Broad knew to stay put for an edge as obvious as this was about as embarrassing as it can get, but that it was expected of him and he had no qualms about doing it. His only compensation was that he reddened up so much in the heat that you could not see him blush.
And so, as the match shifted towards England on a torpid, inconsistent surface, the resentment went the other way. England suffered two dubious debatable decisions by the third umpire, Marais Erasmus on the second day; Dar's blunder infuriated Australia on the third. If they ever lose the Ashes urn, the new ashes could be made up of the burnt offerings of couple of ICC umpires.
Beyond the emotions, Bell played with inconspicuous authority. The pitch was parched and so were the mouths of the spectators, but Bell exuded calm from the moment he took guard in the 15th over of the day, subtle back cuts and glides to the fore, a sensible approach on such a slow, low surface. He played with great selectivity, purred into an occasional deft drive and wavered only once, on 77, the over after the Broad brouhaha, when Haddin missed a tough, low chance off Peter Siddle. Haddin's mood, dark enough as it was, turned a shade blacker.
There were other issues for the umpires to deal with, too. Bell and Broad were warned for running down the centre of the pitch after tea and Pattinson was reminded that when it came to an appeal, once as quite enough as he hollered twice for an lbw appeal against Bell, who got a big inside edge.
England win these days by wearing down their opponents. Their run rate over their last dozen Tests is lower than any Test nation but Zimbabwe and for much of the day they were at their most painstaking as they battled to make light of a first-innings deficit of 65.
Only when Matt Prior briefly broke free against the second new ball did they begin to summon an attacking response. Shane Watson, who had been seen as a reluctant bowler in this Test because of a strain or two, delivered 15 overs of sedate medium pace for 11 runs, bringing the ball back with the risk of low bounce, always likely to take a wicket without actually advertising as much.
Michael Clarke delayed taking the second new ball for three overs but he might have delayed it longer because Prior was still new to the crease, with a single to his name from five deliveries. James Pattinson, in particular, had got the old ball to reverse markedly, England's innings was limping along at less than two runs an over and the slow, low surface was particularly treacherous to Prior who likes nothing more than to feed of off-side width and bounce.
Against the first new ball they made 176 for 5 at less than two an over; against its successor they made 160 for 1 at 3.2.
The new ball was much to Prior's tastes, never better illustrated than by his resounding pull, against Mitchell Starc. But on 31, from only 42 balls, the pitch betrayed him as he tried to pull Pattinson, the ball stuck in the surface, and he holed out to midwicket off the bottom of the bat.
The exhortation in the England dressing room, as they resumed on 80 for 2, only 15 ahead, would have been to bat all day. To make 246 for 4 was more than they dared hope. There was a remorseless mood about Alastair Cook as he registered his slowest half-century in Tests, more than four-and-a-quarter hours, pedestrian progress designed to right the wrongs of England's first innings.
Since his elevation to the England captaincy, Cook had always turned a Test fifty into a hundred. Agar, a graceful Australian debutant having the game of his life, had no respect for such statistics. Fifty was all he got. Agar outdid him with a touch of extra bounce from the rough as he tried to turn him into the leg side. Clarke's springing catch to his left was a good one; soon followed up by some stretches of his dicky back. Cook's wicket is worth 100 hours of remedial massage.
Australia were in no mood to allow Cook's staple diet of nudges off his pads. Their tactics are clearly to stifle him by bowling length outside off stump. On another warm morning, Cook impassively watched the deliveries pass by, like a lizard on a rock, waiting for a suitable beetle to come into range.
Kevin Pietersen, on 64, was England's first batsman to perish, his careworn stand with Cook worth 110 in 49 overs, the memories of England's painstaking progress in Tests in India and New Zealand during the winter revived with every over. He fought hard to play straight, forewarned of the dangers that could befall him if he did not when he whipped Siddle through midwicket and thick-edged the ball through cover, but then he got a ball from Pattinson that said "hit me" and could not resist it.
Pattinson deserved his moment as he caused Pietersen to drag on, attempting an off-side drive. He had found the edge earlier in the over and must have been wearied by its trundling progress well short of slip on such a torpid surface. Pietersen's error illustrated that a drag-on always a possibility. Bairstow became a second victim for Agar, edging to the wicketkeeper as he pushed at one that turned. Agar looks to be Australia's best chance of producing a regular spinner since Warne, but it is a rum list.
But Australia were to suffer for their over-excitement by wasting their final review on Pattinson's lbw appeal against Bairstow. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena gave it not out, but when he awarded runs it tempted Australia into a review because they were convinced it had struck the pad, forgetting to factor in that it was passing harmlessly down the leg side.
It was an embarrassing waste of a review. But it was doubtless not quite as embarrassing as it was for Aleem Dar several hours later.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo