England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, Durham, 3rd day August 11, 2013

Pristine Bell gives England the advantage


England 234 for 5 (Bell 105*, Harris 3-74) lead Australia 270 (Broad 5-71) by 202 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

As the shadows lengthened over Durham, Australia's best bowler, Ryan Harris, sat England's best batsman, Ian Bell, on his backside with a menacing bouncer from around the wicket. The moment epitomised proceedings on another winding, twisting day of the fourth Test. Harris had done most things right: choosing a simple plan and backing it up with the most wholehearted of action. But Bell survived, allying pristine technique to plenty of guts and the batting form of his life.

Forty minutes later, Bell walked off Chester-le-Street with 105 unbeaten runs next to his name, England's lead an ominous 202, and Australia a bowler short due to Shane Watson's latest soft tissue ailment. Harris followed him, leading the tourists from the field after giving his all with bat and ball. But he lacked enough support, while Bell could point to sharp bowling by Graeme Swann and James Anderson in the morning before Kevin Pietersen and Jonny Bairstow put their heads down for critical stands.

Bairstow fell in the closing moments of the day, Brad Haddin pouching a terrific catch as Nathan Lyon gained turn and bounce from around the wicket, but England had reason to be satisfied. Their top order had been dismantled by Harris, before Bell yet again proved his pre-eminence among the batsmen on either side in this Ashes series by playing with elegance and tremendous skill. He was particularly profitable through the third man region, scheming Australia's death by a thousand late cuts.

Australia had lost much of the ground fought for so doggedly by Chris Rogers with the loss of their last five wickets for 46 in the morning, Harris's 28 the only real resistance. Haddin and Rogers failed to keep their wickets intact before the second new ball was taken, scotching any thoughts of a match-shaping lead. Swann and Anderson did the majority of the damage, before Stuart Broad notched a deserved five-wicket haul.

England's second innings began comfortably enough, but Harris conjured a glory ball that whirred in towards Joe Root before zipping sharply away off the seam to beat the outside edge and clip the top of off stump. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott seemed intent on swifter scoring than on day one, and appeared to be doing it well until Cook drove at the line but not the length of a Harris ball going across him and edged behind.

Harris was by now bowling at a slippery pace, and in his next over Trott was late on a hook at a well-directed bouncer and managed only to glove it, whereupon Haddin held a sharp chance above his head. At effectively 17 for 3 England were wavering badly, but Pietersen and Bell set about calming the innings with good sense and sound placement.

Bell prospered through his pet dabs down to third man, an area Clarke kept mystifyingly vacant until Bell had made a decent start. Pietersen was troubled by the odd short ball, but signalled his greater comfort by pulling Siddle twice towards the leg side boundary. The runs accrued steadily, Clarke shuffling his bowlers around but unable to conjure the fourth wicket. He also moved from slip to mid-off, a bothersome sign for Australia that his back was creaking.

Pietersen was kept a little more quiet as the evening session began, tied down notably by Siddle. His desire to avoid opening the face of his bat to Lyon's angle around the stumps, something that hastened his exit in the first innings, resulted in ever more exaggerated flicks to the leg side. Lyon dragged Pietersen ever wider outside off, and eventually a front edge and catch at cover was procured when one ball did not turn so much as expected.

Bell was unperturbed by this, and Bairstow eased his own considerable nerves by twice driving Lyon straight with power. Their stand was broken briefly by a risible call by Tony Hill and Aleem Dar to go off for bad light with blue sky visible over the ground, but by the time Lyon struck again Harris had been seen off, and the game was tilting firmly England's way.

It had begun to do so in the day's earliest exchanges. Rogers and Haddin had resumed with thoughts of establishing a significant lead, but ultimately were unable even to reach the second new ball, due within six overs of the resumption. Haddin went back when he might have pressed forward against Swann and was lbw, his referral made for a ball that was hitting middle and off after straightening from around the wicket.

Following his enormous contribution to Australia's cause on day two, Rogers did not quite find the right rhythm, and shortly before the 80th over arrived he stretched to defend Swann and found extra bounce grazing his glove before floating up off his pad for Matt Prior to dive alertly and claim the catch. Tony Hill was unconvinced but was shown to have erred; England's review ending Rogers's innings.

Siddle snicked Anderson low to first slip and Lyon lasted only seven balls before walking across his crease and succumbing lbw, even if Hawk Eye suggested Anderson's nip-backer would have slid past leg stump. Three consecutive Harris boundaries from Broad stretched Australia's advantage handily, but in the next over he was pinned in front of the stumps. Harris went on to produce more heroics with the ball, but it was to be Bell who reigned supreme. England have cause to ponder where they would have been in this series without him.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Merv on August 12, 2013, 11:36 GMT

    What would England do without Bell? And Australia without Harris? What has happened to Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird on a fast bowler's pitch was barely average. Not much there. Our selectors took forever to pick Harris and Rogers because they were too 'old'. We really need to keep these guys and start to look beyond the Smiths, and Hughes, etc as they will never make Test players. the 18-19 year olds can still be taught proper technique.

  • Nicholas on August 12, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    What is the highest successfully chased last innings score on this pitch anyways? I'm still saying a lead of 285 to be 'safe' in this game - but just interested in the stats.

  • Marvellous on August 12, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    if we are to have a hope in this match david warner is going to have to bat like a crazed demon. i dont care if his strike rate is like 30 or 40, he needs to keep his wicket intact.

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    England have enough now. If they get 250+ then Australia have zero chance.

  • Paul on August 12, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    NINE years after his debut Bell comes to the party and makes a contribution when others have not - or much less so. Great talent - but perhaps 'mentally' lacking. Don't forget the first innings, just like Ahmedabad

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Some of my fellow posters are underestimating Australia here. they have been beaten on all ends in Indian series and a much improved Indian side who outplayed them in every facet of the game .compare that to this series,few lucky calls going there way and England wud be trailing 2-1 and chasing the game.now Australia are desperate to draw the series to launch a fresh assault on ashes on home grounds which vary to a certain degree to what they getting here.match is poised here with Australia leading 55-45 %. also well done Rogers and Bell for centuries,more so rogers for a maiden test century at age of 35.

  • Amit on August 12, 2013, 8:27 GMT


    I am Indian fan and agree with you both. In last 3 years Englad were better prepared and were better as a team than India. But then may have been a transition time for India from 2011 to 2013 and its key players lack of form (Sehwag,Gambhir,Tendulkar,VVS). Don't forget India won test series against England away (2007) and at home (Dec 2008). (I bet England were transitioning during that period)

  • Tim on August 12, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    Here's a dreadful prediction: England set Australia 246 to win, and Australia get them for 7 down.

  • Nicholas on August 12, 2013, 8:16 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha (post on August 11, 2013, 12:32 GMT): No, I'm not kidding at all. Some people here are saying over 300 needed...

    You've right about the pitch and the weather, but unlike you I don't think it's a magic pitch that only deteriorates when Australia come on to bat. Some of the balls to Bell for example were laughable: one ball he's on his knees trying to keep it out because it keeps so low; the next it's heading straight for his head even though it pitched around the same spot. Conditions for bowling have been similar throughout the whole game, = swing and seam for both teams if they bowl at the right speed. Plenty of drift and turn for Lyon and Swann too.

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    Well, I Bellitlled him at the start of the series but Bell has been the big difference so far, well played that man! Never saw that one coming.

    I don't think Aus are anywhere near out of this yet, not long til the new ball, we need to do what England did to us yesterday morning and then go out and bat well, simple game plan, get out there and get it done lads!