Ashes 2013: Ian Bell and Stuart Broad steady the ship as England build decent target

Bell on verge of century at close of play on Day Three of the first Test

At this rate, the world supply of seat edges will shortly be under threat. From first ball to last on Day Three of the First Test of the Ashes twisted and turned excruciatingly on its enthralling path to a denouement which may be unbearable.

Only late on the third day did this gripping match appear finally to have turned England's way in a fashion that might have broken Australia's spirit and will certainly determine the manner in which this series will now be conducted. Slowly, unsurely the home side had built on their lead, led improbably by Ian Bell's resilient, magisterial innings of 95no, but the tourists had never quite let them out of sight.

By the time Bell and Stuart Broad had taken their crucial seventh wicket partnership to 81 late in the day, Australia urgently needed a wicket. The deficit was 236 runs, it was reaching the stage where England were again, perhaps for the third or fourth time, on the verge of creating a position that was unbreachable.

And then, Ashton Agar, the 19-year-old Victorian debutant for whom life is at present a bowl of cherries, conjured one out of the rough to Broad. It took the outside edge of the left hander's bat, flew off the glove and thigh of the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and looped to Michael Clarke at slip.

Australia leapt in overjoyed unison. Broad meanwhile gave that look which suggests that butter would not melt in his mouth - easy enough with his boy band face - and got on with his business while the umpire Aleem Dar, the best in the world not long ago, turned down the appeal. For a moment it looked as though Australia would lay siege to him but though visibly angry, they restricted themselves to desperate imploring.

Clarke, their captain, made the motion for a review but to no avail since his side has used both their permitted requests, the second a particularly wasteful referral for an lbw against Jonny Bairstow. Dar saw no need to seek additional guidance and the match continued.

In the next over Haddin failed to pouch a difficult low chance to his right, offered by Bell swatting at Siddle, perhaps also affected by the dispute. It may be too early so suggest that the series was won and lost in this period. England had their own misfortune the previous day when Agar, on his way to 98, was ruled not out stumped on six when his foot seemed patently not to be over the line.

But it is safe to presume that Australia felt hard done by then at a significant moment and that they will not be dashing for the pavilion any time soon should they happen to hit the cover off the ball. Their bitterness did not subside and the fast bowler, James Pattinson, may find himself up before the beak for an over-zealous appeal for lbw against Bell near the close.

In its way, an additional touch of controversy was precisely what befitted this stupendous tie. The pitch was dry and slow. Runs and wickets had to be prised out of it.  Bell, of all people, did much of the important prising, virtuously denying himself throughout a long, hot vigil. There was one vintage cover drive early in the piece but otherwise his chief scoring asset was the delicate late dab and cut.

He left the ball gloriously and used the review system judiciously when he was 34 and adjudged lbw to Shane Watson. At this stage the ball was reverse swinging almost manically and a wicket then might have had Australia all over England.

Replays showed the ball was narrowly missing leg stump and Bell was spared.

The third day of this gripping match, sponsored by Investec, was cut from a different cloth than the two which went before. Then it was the non-stop action and the unfathomable clatter of wickets which made the affair so absorbing, now it was the relative calm that gripped.

It was impossible to relax, on occasion it was difficult to draw breath given the potent mixture tension and the claustrophobic humidity of a high summer's day. England, 261 ahead, with four wickets in hand are now favourites to prevail.

The conditions encouraged reverse swing and allowed spinners to ply their trade with optimism, which is not the norm at Trent Bridge. In the initial stages it seemed that everything for England would hinge on the overnight partnership of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.

For an hour they could no little wrong and it was beginning to seem that Pietersen would stamp his mark and authority and proceedings as was his destiny. Cook simply played the percentages. They had been here before doing this, the last time in Mumbai late last year when England won an epic victory.

When the ball began to go Irish, as the Australians put it, there was the suspicion that something had to happen quickly. It did. Pietersen, after striking 12 fours in his 64, played a forcing shot against Pattinson which rattled into his stumps off an inside edge.

Ten runs later, Cook pushed forward with a crooked bat to Agar and was undone by the ball rushing on out of the rough. Clarke took a wonderful catch leaping high to his left. It was a stunning grab in anybody's language, for a man with a chronic back condition it was almost miraculous.

Australia were in the ascendancy then but Bell and Jonny Bairstow repelled them just long enough to ensure England were not overwhelmed. Soon after, Bairstow was caught behind off Agar, Australia decided to take the second new ball.

It was the wrong move. It allowed Matt Prior just enough latitude to play his instinctive attacking game and though he was out pulling to mid-wicket, perhaps being too aggressive for the circumstance, England led by 153. Broad played with good sense and was frequently in consultation with Bell. They survived to the end, courtesy of Dar. The last has not been heard of it. The Ashes remain ablaze.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?