England lead by 202 runs with five wickets in hand.
Once the Ashes are lifted at the Oval and the winners’ cheque signed, sealed and delivered to England (actually, who does pay in those oversized cheques? – we can’t imagine Giles Clarke nipping down to the local HSBC branch during his lunch break), analysis of England’s sub-par batting can begin. Until then, revel in a superb batsman at the top of his form. Batting conditions were easier today than they had been on the first two days, but Bell still did what his team-mates couldn’t, and that is proceed to make a match-influencing score. His unbeaten hundred was sublime; even when his favoured late-cut shot was hindered with the positioning of a deep third man, he instead made his runs with dashing cover drives, well-executed pulls and two lovely flighted drives off Lyon. It was arguably the best of the three centuries he’s made so far this series, and in this form he might well add to the list at the Oval.
At 17:43, northeastern skies darkened slightly as clouds rolled in. At approximately 17:50, the cloud drifted off and was replaced by the blue skies that seven minutes earlier were visible in the distance. In the intervening period, the umpires decided that the visibility was so poor as to be potentially dangerous to players and then good enough for play to recommence. The break was mercifully brief, but the players’ reactions to the original decision showed that both sides were happy to play on (Jonny Bairstow had a few balls earlier pulled Ryan Harris for a boundary). The chorus of booing from the spectators hopefully continue to echo in Tony Hill and Aleem Dar’s ears this evening. With this fuckwittery added to some shambolic decision-making (see Hill not giving Harris out LBW – on referral the replay showed that he was so obviously out that all players were halfway to the pavilion by the time Hill raised his finger), any new followers to this game due to the hype surrounding the Ashes must be thoroughly confused – and rightly, disappointingly, so.
Assuming there are no clouds whatsoever above the area between the North Sea and the Pennines, it should be another fascinating day. England should be considered favourites at the moment, but the pitch may be creating fewer chances and Australia are by no means defeated yet.