England v Australia, 3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day August 3, 2013

Australia maintain grip despite Pietersen ton


England 294 for 7 (Pietersen 113, Cook, 62, Bell 60) trail Australia 527 for 7 dec by 233 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball

For a little more than two hours, England asserted the measure of control they required to secure this match, and the Ashes themselves. Though Australia's bowlers had toiled manfully and persistently, finding life where their opposite numbers had not, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell stood firm, the former thrusting to a fine hundred, the latter caressing his way towards a third such score of the series.

But right at the moment the tourists may have begun to flag, Ryan Harris found a way through the previously impassable Bell, tilting back his off stump and revitalising Australia. The wickets of Jonny Bairstow and Pietersen himself followed, leaving the Old Trafford Test finely balanced with two days remaining and maintaining Australia's heartening revival as belatedly serious contenders for the urn.

On a day of high quality and considerable intrigue, Harris, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Shane Watson all delivered searching spells. Pietersen and Bell can seldom have played better, their calculated attack on Nathan Lyon a critical passage on a pitch taking turn and bounce throughout. There were imponderables, too. Pietersen on 62 would have been out lbw had Michael Clarke assented to Watson's opinion that his old-ball inswinger was bound for the stumps. When Starc dismissed Pietersen lbw there was Hot Spot evidence of the merest nick.

Starc's contribution should not be underestimated, for his knack of taking wickets countered a tendency to lose his length and line at times. A mediocre delivery accounted for Alastair Cook thanks to a supreme leg-side diving catch by Brad Haddin, but Bairstow and Pietersen fell victim to a sublime spell of reverse movement as the evening drew in.

Recovered from an apparent stomach bug, Harris had opened up for Clarke alongside Siddle. Their early overs were relentlessly probing, offering only the most occasional scoring chances for Cook and Jonathan Trott, neither of whom looked comfortable despite a ball that was no longer new and a pitch possessing few demons.

Trott, who had begun the series in grand touch, was particularly scratchy, becalmed in much the same way Joe Root had been the previous night. Unable to get off strike, or hit the middle of the bat, Trott ultimately succumbed while doing his best not to play a shot at all, edging to Clarke at second slip while trying to leave Harris.

Pietersen's first few deliveries were no more convincing, as he fiddled loosely at balls zinging past him outside off stump as though wanting to offer a nick to the Australia cordon. Harris nearly burst a yorker through Pietersen also, but the entry of Starc and Watson to the bowling attack - while Lyon was oddly given only two overs - allowed a little pressure to be relaxed.

With Pietersen scoring freely and Cook carrying on stoically, England appeared set to reach lunch without further loss. But 12 minutes before the break a Starc delivery angling towards Cook's hip drew a fine leg glance and a rasping catch by Haddin, clasping the chance in the tip of his right glove as he threw himself full length. In the dying moments of the session Bell may have given up the thinnest of edges to Haddin off Starc, but only Australia's wicketkeeper went up for the catch.

That moment did not linger too much in Australian minds, but there was to be another midway through the afternoon. Pietersen and Bell had counter-attacked confidently and fruitfully, their chief achievement the removal of Lyon from the attack despite Australia's offspinner bowling well on a pitch that offered turn and bounce. Twice Pietersen lofted Lyon for six and Bell followed up with one of his own; not once could the bowler be said to have offered up something to hit.

Nonetheless, his withdrawal left Clarke searching for wickets, but when Watson found a hint of swing after replacing Lyon, the moment of success passed without the captain realising it. Pietersen had lurched forward and across to play through midwicket, and though Watson seemed adamant in his appeal Haddin and Clarke suggested the ball was swerving down the leg side.

But Hawk-Eye revealed it to be hitting leg stump squarely enough for Tony Hill's verdict to be overturned, and the sight of Darren Lehmann raising a glum finger from the balcony left Clarke pondering whether his moment had passed. Certainly there were few other glimmers offered by Pietersen and Bell, both well entrenched by the time the interval arrived and already taking some shine off the second new ball.

Safe as both batsmen looked, Australia required something beyond the sturdy stuff dished up in the first two sessions. True to his form so far in the series Harris would provide it. Moving most deliveries fractionally away from Bell, he conjured a nip-backer that beat an accomplished technician for length, pace and deviation, striking the top of off stump and reviving his team.

Bairstow and Pietersen then prospered for a time, but never with the security of the previous stand. Each bowler troubled Bairstow in turn, while Watson singed Pietersen's outside edge with a series of deliveries bending subtly away. Watson's frustration at this sequence was plain, but it did not prevent him from pouching a sharp low chance when Starc's angle eventually tempted Bairstow to flirt at a ball whirring across him.

Starc was by now finding the reverse swing that won him selection ahead of Jackson Bird, and two overs later he ensured Australian hope would be raised for the remainder of the match by pinning Pietersen lbw. The ball straightened down the line and would have crashed into middle stump, though there was the suspicion of an edge so thin that even Pietersen did not pick it up. Stuart Broad and Matt Prior were left to scratch around in the lengthening shadows, the match and the series still tantalisingly open.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on August 4, 2013, 18:33 GMT

    @Jono Makim "so you are expecting Cook to never fall between 50 and 100 again?"

    No, of course not, but why is it OK for Australians to harp on, before this Test, that Clarke was due a big century (which he duly delivered) and that the Aussies would bat better (as they have here) but it's not OK for England fans to say that Cook and Trott are both due a century?

    As for Broad's figures, I remember similar figures for Anderson being mentioned in the build-up to the series, with Australians insisting they'd take him seriously when he averaged under 30. I pointed out at the time that I was sure he would, as under Saker his have stats improved. So have Broad's:

    Jimmy (Pre-Saker): Average 34.81, 3.4 wickets a match. Jimmy (Post-Saker): Average 25.39, 4.3 wickets a match.

    Broad (Pre-Saker): Average 36.15, 2.96 wickets a match. Broad (Post-Saker): Average 28.33, 3.7 wickets a match.

    The closest thing we have to Mitch is probably Finn. But he's young and has time to improve (probably will).

  • Dummy4 on August 4, 2013, 11:34 GMT

    The big question is how brave is Clarke going to be? It's a must win game, but in order to leave his bowlers enough time to bowl England out again, he'd probably have to declare earlier than he'd want especially when you take the potential weather issues into account. Could shape up to being a much closer match than England deserve it to be, and who knows they could actually pinch it (Fingers crossed). Unless Clarke just bats England out of the game, but what's the point? Ok it avoids the whitewash, but hands England the Ashes.

  • Dummy4 on August 4, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    @HZO, so you are expecting Cook to never fall between 50 and 100 again? Even Bradman got out cheap occasionally! You guys have absurd expectations. KP made a crucial 60 odd at Trent Bridge coming at 2 down for 10 or so when you guys were still well behind. So a crucial 50 and century from 5 innings against a good attack, in my opinion is good batting. Even at the top of their form batsmen are going to get out cheaply every now and then. And what of Bell, he is playing far beyond expectations I would have thought. Thats how cricket is

    Only Bradman and Headley have made centuries with the kind of frequency you seem to be demanding.

    Broad averages over 31 and takes on average 3.33 wickets per match. He is Englands Mitchell Johnson. He may have looked great at times but he is bowling too short and going past the edge too much. He may start out with other intentions but it never takes more than a boundary or two and its back to the naughty corner and a much shorter length.

  • Altaf on August 4, 2013, 11:08 GMT

    Aus should have extended first innings at least till 600. 1 & half day can not complete 2 innings and Aus can't take risk by declaring earlier. The stand by Haddin & Starc that was settled down very well and rhythm could have accelerated the run-rate, that's not easy in second innings. This has cost them minimal chance to grab the game.

  • H on August 4, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    @Jono Makim on (August 4, 2013, 8:50 GMT) Now that, I agree with. Australia had the best of the batting conditions (they have actually at both of the previous Tests but didn't use them; the cloud cover at Trent Bridge made day 1 tricky, while Lord's had a touch of moisture on day 1 that disappeared by day 2, even England's lower-order benefitted from that) and I'd have thought the best two scenarios for Clarke were to bowl England out yesterday, even if it meant conceding 350 and foregoing the follow-on, or to have restricted the runs to maybe 180 in the day, even if that's at the cost of taking less wickets (because the follow-on becomes a real risk when you've got enough of a lead still left to fancy bowling the other side out and either not have to bat again, or be chasing a tiny amount (under 50).

    Today and tomorrow will be tough batting conditions. Getting quick runs will not be easy. All 3 results possible, for my money, albeit an England win is the least likely.

  • Peter on August 4, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    Lyon is the work experience cricketer. Should be the real thing in O'Keefe.

  • H on August 4, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    @Jono Makim on (August 4, 2013, 8:16 GMT) It's no excuse, but there's no way this is England playing as well as they can, especially the batsmen.

    Pietersen's been very good? Nonsense. He wasn't even that fluent during his knock yesterday, Bell looked far more fluent, but KP dug in and that's what impressed me the most about that century.

    Cook's never passed 50 as captain and failed to score a century before this series. Done it twice already. Prior's out of form. Trott's looked good and then gotten out (which is very unlike him).

    As for Broad, not only is he among our best 3, he's up there with Jimmy when he's on form and bowling well. In the past, that's been a rare sight, but this series he's been our best seamer. Obviously Trent Bridge was Jimmy's Test, but Broad had an injury and still got some crucial wickets. Since then, in 8 days of cricket, he's been our best seamer. Was brilliant at Lord's and got nothing to show for it.

    Happens to bowlers all the time. Lyon, for example.

  • Dummy4 on August 4, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Australia s grip on the game is getting stronger thats gud petrson is a special player who plays on big occasions

  • Carl on August 4, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Australia may well be in the driving seat, but the Manchester weather has yet to come into play - and it will, soon enough. Probably the tourists only serious chance of a positive result in the series and the rain will likely wash it away - shame, but that's cricket. Good to see more of a contest this time though, especially after the second test.

  • Martyn on August 4, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    Cook must regret that attempted leg glance. Why do batsmen play this shot? It rarely scores and always looks risky. It can't be a percentage shot, yet everyone except Bell seems to attempt it whenever the ball is missing leg stump.