Australia took the crucial wickets of Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook in the morning on the third day of the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. 

After steady accumulation of runs in the first hour, England's key men fell in quick succession, leaving Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow with a testing period to survive before lunch. They managed this, with England sat at 157/4 at the break, a lead of 92.

Pietersen had looked in good touch, enjoying the better of the early exchanges on what looked like a slow and low pitch.

He sent Starc, Siddle and Pattinson to the fence as he raced to his 31st Test match half-century. Although he scored quickly on the third morning, his strike rate of 35 overnight meant that this was his third slowest 50 in Test match cricket.

He reached 64 and looked well set but played on to an innocuous delivery outside off-stump to James Pattinson, who bowled with pace, movement and aggression throughout the morning session. Before he faced the ball that dismissed him, Pietersen seemed distracted by something around the sight screen and this break in concentration may have led to his wicket.

This broke Pietersen's 110 run stand with his captain, Cook. While the pair are certainly contrasting in styles, this is not the first time that they enjoyed a productive partnership. In tandem in Test Cricket they have scored 3,300 runs, at an average of over 66.

This average is higher than any other England pair, except the legendary Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, who scored together at an average of 87.86 in the first half of the 20th century. Pietersen and Cook today over took Hobbs and Sutcliffe's overall run total together. 

Cook appeared unruffled by Pietersen's departure as he reached his 50, but fell shortly after. Ashton Agar is enjoying a remarkable Test Match after his spectacular 98 yesterday and his fine form continued as he claimed Cook as his First Test match wicket. As Cook attempted to dab the left-arm spinner away into the leg side, he got a leading edge and his opposite number Michael Clarke defied his sore back to take a spectacular catch.

As first Test match scalps go for Agar, they don't come much bigger in World Cricket today than the England captain, who has been in excellent form since taking over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss last autumn.

Cook's departure left Bairstow and Bell a tricky period to negotiate before lunch with the old ball reverse swinging. Pattinson was threatening and Shane Watson tight and the pair made runs hard to come by. With Bairstow short on time in the middle and Bell's form patchy in 2013, the pair did well to survive and will hope to build on the platform they have laid after the lunch interval.

Australia bowled tight lines and fielded excellently, with excellent stops from Steven Smith and Phil Hughes preventing certain boundaries. Large footmarks will offer opportunities for the spinners as the day drags on and reverse swing of the old ball remains a factor. As the highest 4th innings chase at Trent Bridge is just 284, England will be looking to post a total in excess of 200 to remain competitive, while 250 would pose Australia very tricky questions in their chase. 

They will be casting their minds back to 2005 when England hobbled, seven wickets down to reach a paltry target of 129 as the ball spun sharply and bounced unevenly. 

With the game set up nicely, England will look to slowly accumulate with wickets in hand, while Australia will look to rip through the England order with the new ball in the afternoon session, setting up as small a chase as possible.

 

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Topics:
#Australia cricket
#Kevin Pietersen
#England cricket
#The Ashes
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