England lead the Ashes series heading into the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. Who would've thought it, eh? I predict that not many England fans, even the most loyal members of the brilliant barmy army, would've honestly believed this would be the score after three matches. It is, though, and England thoroughly deserve to be in pole position.
The way the pace attack bowled during the third Test was exquisite. Jimmy Anderson found swing. Steven Finn found rhythm. And Stuart Broad found seam movement. Add in some excellent fielding, particularly in the slips, and you have something very close to the complete bowling performance.
Australia’s first innings score of 136 was extremely poor, however, England’s bowling performance was sensational. Anderson produced a masterclass in swing bowling and ended up with figures of 6 for 47 off his 14.4 overs. After a quiet start to the series which has seen England’s leading bowler take just 3 wickets in 63.5 overs, his performance during Australia’s first innings was a poignant reminder that there are few, if any, more skilled swing bowlers in world cricket.
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The English bowlers executed their plans superbly. Batting, on the other hand, seemed to be more difficult. England's first innings score of 281, despite the fact there was plenty in the pitch for the Australian bowlers to work with, was still 50 or so short of what they would've been hoping for. Special praise should be given to Moeen Ali; his 50, which was a unique mix of doggedness, luck and fluent stroke play, came at a crucial time for England and helped guide the home side to a commanding first innings lead of 145.
Australia’s second innings yielded 265 runs, with David Warner, Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc all scoring half centuries. Warner’s brilliant innings of 77 came off just 62 balls and included the joint fastest half century in Ashes history (Warner reached his 50 off just 35 balls). The standout performer for England during Australia’s second innings was Steven Finn. The 6ft 7 paceman bowled with speed, bounce and fantastic consistency. Finn was rewarded for his efforts with figures of 6 for 79 off his 21 overs.
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Finn’s heroics, supported admirably by Anderson and Broad meant that Australia had set England a target of just 121 to secure victory. Fittingly, it was the Warwickshire man Ian Bell who played superbly to score an unbeaten 65 which guided England home. Joe Root continued his brilliant form as well, he ended the day 38 not out.
England are in a great position heading into the fourth Test at Trent Bridge in a week’s time. There are heap loads of positives to take from the series so far, however, it is important to consider some of the slightly more worrying aspects of the team as well.
Lyth’s form at the top of the order is a real concern, although it seems like he will be given the opportunity to put this right becuase he is still so inexperienced at Test level. The supremely talented Joss Buttler is having a tough time with the bat at the minute as well, averaging just 13.4 this series. Conversely, his glove work, for the most part, has been terrific. The injury to Anderson is obviously a huge loss to England, but there is an optimistic feeling that he should be back for the final Test at The Oval.