England had the smell of victory in their nostrils at stumps on Day Four of the first Ashes at Trent Bridge, with boy of the moment Ashton Agar at the crease trying to salvage Australia’s fading hopes of winning the match.
The day started with Ian Bell getting a fantastic century after putting in the hard yards yesterday and many commentators calling it his best ever innings for England.
Stuart Broad shrugged off the controversy from yesterday to complete a crucial half century as he and Bell looked to take the game away from the tourists.
If a Broad edge caused such furore on Day Three, there was no debate to be had when he was caught behind by Haddin off the bowling of James Pattison for 65 - an impressive and crucial innings.
Bell followed soon afterwards, edging a good ball from Mitchell Starc, and the England tail was polished off quickly, leaving Australia chasing 311 for an unlikely win.
The record fourth innings run chase at Trent Bridge is 283, so the England bowlers would have been confident when running on to the field.
It didn’t go to plan early on, however, as Shane Watson and Chris Rodgers were scoring fairly easily, as the ball refused to swing or spin decisively early on.
Watson was on 46 when he was hit on the pad by a Stuart Broad delivery going across him and given out – Hawkeye said umpire’s call for the ball hitting the stumps.
Next man in Ed Cowan never looked comfortable at the crease and relaxed a little too early on 14, getting caught at first slip by Jonathan Trott when playing an expansive drive to a turning delivery from Joe Root on Nelson.
It was Root’s first ever test wicket and gave England a huge boost going in at Tea, though Australia’s good start meant the match was still in the balance.
Michael Clarke played diligently and was aware that a dogged innings was required, though the man that was doing just that fell not long after.
Rodgers had been batting very well to make his half century, but got a leading edge off a Jimmy Anderson slower ball and it was an easy catch for Bell at short mid-wicket.
Perhaps the key wicket of the match was Clarke and there was confusion after Broad thought he had edged; the Umpires conversed shortly about whether the ball carried before giving out.
Clarke then reviewed the call, saying later he believed he hadn’t hit it, and you can forgive him because HotSpot showed a miniscule mark on his bat, but there was no doubting about the noise.
England had been steadily building pressure with some incredibly economical bowling and it looked as though it had started to tell.
Steven Smith looked frustrated at not being able to get the ball away, but he was far too close to the stumps for Graeme Swan delivery that turned and hit him in front from the very next ball.
There were no reviews left for the Baggy Greens, but there was no doubt Smith had to go.
Swann seemed to have the game between his teeth and was getting lots of purchase on the pitch after looking a little low earlier in the day.
Hawkeye was key again for the wicket of Phil Hughes, who was hit plumb in front on a duck by a terrific Swann delivery but Umpire Kumar Dharmasena gave not out, as there was doubt about whether the ball had pitched in line.
England captain Alastair Cook has been reluctant to review decisions, but Swann convinced him this time around and Hawkeye showed the half of the ball pitching in line with leg stump, but it was a matter of millimetres.
It was another crucial wicket as Hughes had played brilliantly for his 81 in that record last wicket stand with Agar in the first innings.
Agar then came in at number eight tasked with seeing out the final few overs of the day with the veteran Brad Haddin, which they did well other than one loose edge that just zipped past Cook at gully.
Australia are not out of the match at 174-6, but it will take a special tail end batting performance to get the 137 runs they require for the win.
They will be hoping for a repeat of Agar’s sensational first innings performance, where he made a world record 98 on debut at number 11.
England are favourites for the victory at this point, though not by too great a margin, and will be looking to finish things off quickly on what is set up to be an exciting final day.
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