Glory beckons for England after Trott ton

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England 332 & 373-9d v Australia 160 & 80-0

Jonathan Trott followed in the footsteps of Kevin Pietersen to push England towards Ashes glory at the Oval.

Warwickshire batsman Trott emulated the feat of fellow South African-born player Pietersen by hitting a maiden Test hundred in a decisive match against Australia.

For 28-year-old Trott it was on debut to boot, having been preferred to more experienced candidates such as Mark Ramprakash and Robert Key for the spare batting place vacated by the axed Ravi Bopara.

Four years ago at the same south London venue, Pietersen reeled off a scintillating 158 to put the match out of Australia's reach.

Today Trott, last out for a disciplined 119, was intent on doing the same as England, needing to win to repeat the 2-1 success, declared on 373 for nine at 5pm, setting Australia a mammoth 546-run target. They closed on 80 without loss.

It has left Australia captain Ricky Ponting on the verge of losing consecutive Ashes series in England.

And there was another sore point for Ponting. Steve Harmison cut his cheek on the opening day of the previous campaign here and more blood flowed on the stroke of lunch today when, stationed at silly point, he copped a drive from Matt Prior in the face.

England began the third morning in control of their must-win contest, 230 runs ahead with seven wickets intact, and Trott enhanced the position considerably by increasing the overnight stand with captain Andrew Strauss to three figures.

Strauss departed on the stroke of lunch for 75 but Trott, unfortunate to be run out in his first Test innings on Thursday, displayed great mental application to lay anchor.

Meanwhile at the other end, a succession of cameos, beginning with one from retiring all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, catalysed the scoring rate.

Flintoff received standing ovations at either end of his 22 and was sportingly shaken by the hand by old foe Ponting to mark his final Test innings.

Stuart Broad, hero of the second-day domination over the tourists with the ball, weighed in with 29 but it was Graeme Swann who rammed the foot on the Australian throat with an audacious 63, which dominated a stand of 90 in 13 overs with Trott for the eighth wicket.

It ended when an attempted pull off Ben Hilfenhaus spiralled to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

At that stage Trott was still five runs short of three figures but there were few signs of nerves as he became the 18th England batsman to score a hundred on Test debut, and first against Australia since Graham Thorpe 16 years ago.

The moment arrived in Hilfenhaus' next over when, on 99, he turned a delivery off his pads towards fine leg and began his celebrations before completing the first run.

Those celebrations rose in intensity as the ball crossed the rope - with salutes to various parts of the the responsive 23,500-capacity crowd and dressing room balcony.

It was reminiscent of the scene when Pietersen, currently sidelined following Achilles surgery, rescued the third innings from demise with a shower of sixes to seal the 2005 draw.

This match has featured no such strokes, and Flintoff's attempt at one resulted in his departure, a hoik into the deep failing to clear long-on off part-time spinner Marcus North.

Broad also departed in the afternoon session when he miscued an ambitious stroke over the top.

North wheeled away from the Vauxhall End throughout the entire afternoon session, a sure-fire admission from the Australians that they had got their team selection wrong.

Without a frontline slow man, North caused some problems initially but was targeted by the England batsmen as the lead expanded, highlighted by the treatment meted out by Swann, who clattered 12 off his bowling in the final over before tea.

It was North's introduction, however, which resulted in the initial breakthrough on a surface which although puffing up dust remains good for batting on.

Captain Strauss led England's steady push for victory with his second half-century of the match but fell just three balls before the interval when he edged to slip.

The opening hour had proved rather circumspect and Strauss registered his slowest ever 50 in Test cricket, from 154 balls, over three hours, just past the midpoint of the morning.

His first boundary of the morning soon followed, when he nailed a pull off Stuart Clark.

A scoring ratio of 38 runs in 13 overs was boosted considerably in the second half of the session.

England's only discomfort before the loss of Strauss came from the very first delivery when Trott survived a huge appeal for caught behind after pushing at a delivery from Peter Siddle.

The ball was clutched gleefully by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and the noise highlighted by television technology initially suggested there had been an outside edge.

However, further replays showed that Pakistan umpire Asad Rauf, under the spotlight for a couple of poor decisions yesterday, had made a very good call as the ball clearly hit Trott's back leg.

Trott, whose wife Abi is granddaughter of former England Test player Tom Dollery, soon settled and watched everything onto the bat with precision during five-and-a-half hours at the crease.

Two glorious straight drives for four off Stuart Clark suggested something more expansive following his 182-ball hundred but when he slashed to point later in the same over, Strauss set Australia their ominous task.

The record chase in Test cricket is West Indies' 418 for seven against Australia in May 2003 while Australia's best is the 404 for three made in the Headingley Ashes contest of 1948.

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