Ashes 2013 third Test day three match report: Kevin Pietersen century saves England but there is still plenty of work to do

Australia 527-7 dec England 294-7: Tourists are still on top despite star turn's disciplined century, but with bad weather forecast England can clinch the series at Old Trafford

Old Trafford

Perhaps death and taxes have the edge but there was something inevitable about England’s fourth century in the Ashes series yesterday. It was scored by Kevin Pietersen and went some way, though no by no means all, to ensuring that the great prize of the terracotta urn will be coming home for the third successive time.

Pietersen had been on the periphery of affairs in the summer so far, injured at the start and short of runs since his return. This is not where he likes to be and his determination to nudge his way from the edge of the stage was demonstrated by the intensive treatment he had for a calf strain in the week before the Third Investec Test.

It all went to suggest that a key intervention was nigh and yesterday it duly arrived when England needed it most. He was not always at his most fluent in compiling his 23 Test hundred but there were patches of brilliance and chutzpah of which only he is capable.

Unfortunately for England Pietersen did not see out the third day and when he was dismissed, naturally with an element of controversy which has surrounded many departures from the crease in this series, it immediately enhanced Australia’s prospects of winning the match and staying in the hunt.

England finished proceedings on 294 for 7, still 34 short of avoiding the follow-on. Australia’s best hope of winning would seem to be enforcing it. The tourists have been comfortably the better side in this Test and have laid to rest the absurd suggestion that England might run out 10-0 winners in the two series that the countries are playing against each other this year. With rain forecast in the North West over the next two days it is extremely doubtful that they can do enough to force the victory that they need to sustain the prospect of regaining the Ashes.

Already 2-0 down in the series, they were left needing to win the remaining three Tests. A draw here – which is the best England can hope for – would end that aspiration but they will have serious intentions now of drawing the series. There was purposeful attitude in their play yesterday, at times a swagger, which England could not quite match.

The rate of scoring, even with Pietersen in occupation, never reached three runs an over. Only briefly in the early afternoon did England up the ante. Otherwise it was diligent stuff, all application and desperation.

Pietersen had the most apprehensive of starts in the morning, entering the arena when Jonathan Trott, who never looked at home, was caught low at second slip. The cat on the hot tin roof looked a model of stillness compared to Pietersen’s fraught movements around the crease and his panic-ridden choice of stroke betrayed his anxiety.

Suddenly he settled when he pulled a couple of short balls in succession for four. It seemed to persuade him that everything was all right again, that he could indeed still hit a cricket ball harder and more disdainfully than any man alive.

He did not provide the most consummate batting of the day, however. That came from Ian Bell, in on the stroke of lunch when Alastair Cook was acrobatically caught down the leg side by Brad Haddin.

Where Pietersen read the coaching manual and amended it to his own ends, Bell digested it and set out to become a perfect exponent of the information therein. He was sublime in his timing and execution. The cover drive, elbow high, knee low was impeccable, the late cut delightful. Pietersen might have looked at this and envied the orthodoxy.

In the afternoon session the pair repelled Australia. They hit the off spinner Nathan Lyon out of the attack and as the ball grew older worked it easily around. Pietersen reached his fifty with consecutive sixes and had a stroke of fortune when he reached 62.

An lbw appeal by Shane Watson was turned down as the batsman advanced down the wicket. Australia, laughingly, decided not to review the decision but were not laughing any more when replays showed the ball would have hit leg stump full on.

England scored 92 without losing a wicket in the afternoon session and it was astonishing shortly after when Bell was beaten by Ryan Harris’s skiddy pace and had his off stump trimmed. It was his only error since he first came in and was beaten outside the off stump.

The manner in which he went to three figures, for the fourth time against Australia and the first at home since his unforgettable 158 at The Oval in 2005, was typical. He took one look at a short wide ball from Starc and upper cut it dismissively for four over gully.

It had been a curious innings in some ways, masterful, dominant, watchful. It was ended when he played down the wrong line to Starc who looked a much more potent bowler operating from the Pavilion End.

Pietersen reviewed the decision more in hope than expectation and walked when the necessary components of the regulations appeared to have been met. Later scrutiny, however, suggested his bat may have made contact with the ball on its way to the pad.

The decision review system and the human error which accompanies it have been thrown into the spotlight during this series. Four umpires are at present expected to stand throughout the two series because they are the only four on the ICC elite list not to come from either Australia or England.

It is unlikely that the neutral umpire regulation will be relaxed because of the effect it could have on other series but it may be that someone will suggest recruiting an umpire from the international panel who is not on the elite list. The umpires in this series have looked under strain and the challenges facing them will only increase in the months ahead.

England were resolutely subdued in the closing stages. Six of the last seven overs were maidens. It was impossible to tell that they were leading in the series. That is a good thing for the Ashes.

KP: 'I didn't want to miss the Ashes'

Kevin Pietersen has revealed that he delayed a knee operation that would have ruled him out of both Ashes series this year in order to try to help England beat Australia this summer, writes Tom Collomosse.

A year on from his infamous press conference after the drawn Test against South Africa at Headingley, when the batsman said it was "tough being me" in the England dressing room, Pietersen's 23rd Test hundred gave England hope of clinching the draw that will ensure they retain the urn.

Pietersen missed three Tests against New Zealand because of the knee. He said: "I didn't have surgery because I didn't want to miss the Ashes," he said. "It was a big decision. If I'd had surgery, I would have been out for nine months.

"I like performing on the big stage. If you play for England or Australia, your career is defined by how you perform in Ashes cricket. Nobody likes injuries and I haven't enjoyed this year. Missing three months wasn't fun, but that's how much the Ashes means."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor