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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence