Australia A 230 and 3 for 128 (Hughes 58, Bresnan 3-25) trail England XI 523 (Bell 192, Collingwood 89, Cook 60, O'Keefe 4-88) by 165 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ian Bell warmed up for the Ashes with his best first-class score in two years, while Australia's batting plans for the Gabba Test became much clearer after Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson failed again. The two young batsmen are in Australia's 17-man Test squad but they are now unlikely to unseat Michael Hussey, who made a career-saving Sheffield Shield century at the MCG.
The first Test begins next Thursday and the Australian selectors will be pleased with the efforts of Hussey and Mitchell Johnson, who in the same match added a five-wicket haul to his first-innings hundred. The major question now surrounds the spin-bowling position, after Nathan Hauritz sent down only one over in New South Wales' loss as the SCG, where Tasmania's Xavier Doherty bowled tidily.
A 12- or 13-man squad is expected to be named on Saturday and it would be a surprise if Khawaja or Ferguson feature, after their disappointing efforts against England's second-string attack in Hobart. Ferguson was bowled for 10 by a Tim Bresnan delivery that kept low, after he made 7 in the first innings, while Khawaja's 13 from Wednesday was followed by a second-innings golden duck.
Bresnan came around the wicket and managed to nip the ball away from Khawaja, who edged behind at almost the same moment Hussey emerged from the MCG dressing rooms on 98 after the Shield tea break. Bresnan (3 for 25) also accounted for Ed Cowan, who played on for 33 trying to pull, and by stumps Australia A were 3 for 128 with Phillip Hughes on 58 and Cameron White on 22.
England's lead was 165 and they were in a strong position to push for victory, which would keep their morale high less than a week from the start of the Ashes - not that Bell needs any more of a confidence boost after his 192. His 275-ball innings eventually came to an end after six hours, when he drove Steven Smith to cover.
Although he missed the double-century he certainly achieved his goal of turning his innings into a big hundred. Bell's tempo on the third day wasn't quite as quick as the second afternoon, but he continued to tick the scoreboard over, first in the latter stages of a 240-run partnership with Paul Collingwood, and then with an entertaining lower order.
Collingwood began the day on 74 and was searching for triple-figures for the first time on the tour, having been out for 94 against South Australia last week. But this time he could only reach 89 and was caught behind when he tried to hook Clint McKay, to end a stand that began at a slightly precarious 5 for 137.
Andrew Strauss was in no hurry to declare, happy to let Bell and the lower order dent the confidence of Australia's fringe bowlers further. Smith finished with 2 for 118 from his 27 overs, having picked up Matt Prior, caught at point miscuing an attempted slog, for 27. The left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe ended up with 4 for 88, including the final two wickets.
O'Keefe had Bresnan lbw for 36 and Chris Tremlett caught at mid-off for 16 to bring the innings to a close with Ajmal Shahzad not out on 18. It left Kevin Pietersen the only man who failed to reach double-figures for the innings. It was a minor quibble for an England outfit full of confidence.