England lead by 15 runs with 8 second innings wickets in hand.
From sublime to astonishing.
For half an hour, Australia looked comfortable. Building on his overnight 38*, Steve Smith stepped up and creamed some delightful shots, including a cover drive off Graeme Swann to bring up his half-century – his fourth in Tests and the first by anyone in this match. However he got carried away and tried to attack Jimmy Anderson. This kind of battle is usually how galaxies are created, but this time Anderson found the edge and Prior took an easy catch.
Basically from thereon Australia were outclassed by the Swann and Anderson pairing. Even though catches were grounded, the next four wickets fell quickly – England even choosing to decline to refer consecutive LBW appeals against James Pattinson – who of course referred the decision when he was given out and it was shown that he was as plumb as it is possible to be.
There was a stumping off Swann that needed the third umpire to adjudicate, but Marais Erasmus decided the finest of margins saved Ashton Agar who was on 6* at the time. Although the replays were inconclusive, more than one commentator felt it should have been given out. Nonetheless, England should have wrapped things up but idiocy by Steven Finn allowed Agar to carry Phil Hughes for a final wicket partnership. Agar counter-attacked with ease and Finn’s four overs of short-pitched shite went for 32 valuable runs.
And then…well it was frankly unbelievable. The no.11 – on debut remember – showed that not only can he slog, but can play seriously good shots as well. He breezed to 50 – and beyond – and their partnership passed 100 to secure the most unlikely of leads.
Incredibly, Hughes scored 81 relatively untroubled runs: seeing this comically bad batsman reach such a score is one of the most touching and fantastic stories in Ashes history. Also, Agar fell two runs short of his hundred. Seriously, Agar’s innings was magnificent as he raced past milestones and the records pages of Wisden were torn up, shredded and burnt. When he was caught by Swann in the deep for 98, the reaction of his family and his teammates was priceless – a momentary thought that the ball was heading for the boundary followed by gut-wrenching heartbreak when they realised it wasn’t. Even though this is the Ashes and therefore the most massively important thing ever, it was disappointing to see Swann celebrating in quite such an enthusiastic manner – although perhaps it was relief rather than celebratory ecstasy.
The England innings started very very slowly – no bad thing after such a whirlwind – but then Mitchell Starc struck twice in two balls. He had Joe Root strangled down the leg-side, followed by Jonathan Trott LBW. The latter was surrounded by controversy: Aleem Dar gave the batsman not out despite Trott being bang in front of the stumps, but on review it appeared that the ball may have deviated slightly on to the pad. The straight-on hotspot camera showed no mark on the bat, and the side-on view was oddly unavailable due to technical hitches. Therefore, in the absence of evidence that Trott had hit the ball, the decision was overturned. Cue a lot of angry and confused people – although the anger was probably burning from the moment Agar started to knock Finn all over Nottingham. An interesting and anxious evening session follows.
After the sexploits of the afternoon session, the evening began with a post-coital nap. Cook laid anchor, while Pietersen largely restrained himself, despite eyeing up Ashton Agar something rotten (although not in a sexual way, we should add). The drinks break was reached with an absolute minimum of fuss before England reached parity via a lovely cover drive from Cook.
And then we nodded off for a bit. Luckily absolutely nothing happened.