England lead by 566 runs with five wickets remaining.
England grind Australia down before Joe Root and Ian Bell put the resulting paste on toast and eat them for dinner washed down with a nice chablis.
Last night Root looked a wee bit out of touch and should have been dismissed when he edged a ball from Shane Watson between Brad Haddin and first slip. Today he was class. In the morning he batted sensibly with Tim Bresnan, their caution ensuring Australia didn’t claw their way back into the game. After Bresnan departed (partnership of 99) Root and Bell pushed things forward – steadily at first and then quickly after tea. His repertoire expanded, with sumptuous straight drives, powerful cuts, delicate glances and feathers to third man. His 100 was inevitable but with Australia broken to a man, he accelerated. He put on 153 with Bell and his partnership with Bairstow is unbeaten on 51. It was a truly memorable innings – and there may be more to come tomorrow.
Australia began reasonably but wicketless. As the morning turned to afternoon they began to fade and although they kept the scoring rate fairly slow, the lack of wickets began to take their toll. Ian Bell had scored just three runs from 21 balls when he wafted Ryan Harris to gully. Steve Smith dived and caught a very low catch. Well, we say caught, but the on-field umpires and Bell awaited confirmation from the replays. As ever, the third umpire (Tony Hill in this instance) failed to understand the relationship between 3D reality and a 2D TV and failed to conclude that the catch was unequivocally not-grounded. From thereon Australia looked lacklustre, dejected and beaten.
Strangely, Michael Clarke opted not to take the new ball once it was available and instead let Smith and Ashton Agar share the final 18 overs. The young spinners were given barely any encouragement or support and for all Clarke’s previous innovation, here the tactics were bizarre – indeed they can’t really be described as tactics. Australia are just waiting for the declaration, but they’re barely alive.
Don’t be surprised if Alastair Cook opts to bat a bit longer. England have been far enough ahead in terms of runs since sometime in the early afternoon, but every run and every extra minute is another electrode into the Australian’s brains.