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Bell Fifty guides England to 2-1 Ashes lead

July 31st, 2015 | by admin
Bell Fifty guides England to 2-1 Ashes lead
Australia
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England 281 (Root 63, Moeen 59, Bell 53, Lyon 3-36) and 124 for 2 (Bell 65*) beat Australia136 (Rogers 52, Anderson 6-47) and 265 (Warner 77, Nevill 59, Starc 58, Finn 6-79) by 8 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Australia arrived on the third morning in Birmingham dreaming of a monumental comeback. They left on the third afternoon still dreaming of one. It will have to come at Trent Bridge and The Oval, though. There were no last-minute surprises at Edgbaston, where Ian Bell’s second fifty of the match ensured a 2-1 series lead for England and snuffed out any hopes Australia raised during a tail-end fight that set England a target of 121.

It might still have proved tricky had a few top-order wickets fallen early. And England did lose both openers cheaply. But Bell realised that a handful of boundaries would be enough to place the pressure back on Australia, so he counter-attacked. Five fours came from his first nine balls, all against Mitchell Starc. And when Michael Clarke dropped a sitter at slip from Bell’s 11th ball, all the wind was out of Australia’s sails.

It capped off a listless match for Clarke, who managed only 10 and 3 with the bat. There was little he could do as captain with such a small total to defend, but still it was odd that Mitchell Johnson, the man who roughed up England on the second mornings, was not handed the ball until the ninth over. By then, England were already 47 for 1. From there it was just a matter of how much time. And a Test that had raced along for two days began to meander.

Cannabis lamps had been used to prepare the surface and typical of gateway drugs, the match soon appeared to be on speed. Day one brought 13 wickets, day two brought 14. Thirteen more on day three would have meant an Australian victory. But instead only five eventuated. Alastair Cook was bowled by a Starc outswinger for 7 and Adam Lyth was lbw to a Josh Hazlewood inswinger for 12, but that was all Australia managed.

Lyth’s continued lack of form was one of the only negatives for England in this match, although the major one was the side strain sustained by James Anderson, which will keep him out of the next Test. But the positives were significant: Steven Finn’s return from the wilderness brought eight wickets for the match, and Bell’s move up the order to No.3 resulted in a fifty in each innings.

From his first ball, a clip through midiwicket for four off a fullish Starc inswinger, Bell looked in touch. There was a majestic drive through cover point and another straight down the ground, and his half-century came with a glide to the third-man boundary from his 68th ball, also off Starc. Bell found good support from Joe Root, and between them they ensured an eight-wicket win, with Bell on 65 and Root on 38 after he struck the winning boundary.

That the match lasted until past the time of the scheduled tea break was thanks to the fight shown by Starc and Peter Nevill before lunch. They each managed a half-century and Australia’s last three partnerships extended their advantage by 97 from the overnight lead of 23. Nevill and Starc did their best to make a game of it during a 64-run eighth-wicket stand.

Nevill had some nervy moments, edges and a near chop-on, and he should have been given out on 53 when he gloved behind off Stuart Broad; Chris Gaffaney did not pick up the contact and England had no reviews left. Nevill’s innings came to an end on 59 when he tickled a catch down the leg side off Steven Finn, who after his day two heroics finished with his best Test figures of 6 for 79.

At the other end, Starc proved tough to remove and he later started to play his shots, going over the top when the spin of Moeen Ali and Root was introduced. Starc’s fifth Test half-century came with a six over long-on from his 83rd ball, off the bowling of Moeen, and Australia could have been forgiven for dreaming of pushing their lead up towards 150, and perhaps beyond.

But Starc lost his partner Hazlewood (11) to a stunning one-handed catch at third slip from Root off Ben Stokes, and their 28-run partnership was over. Still, Nathan Lyon proved a capable ally for a further 20-run stand before Starc chipped a catch to extra cover off Moeen and was dismissed for 58.

It was too little, too late. All of Australia’s bottom five batsmen reached double figures in the second innings. Only one of the top six did – David Warner with 77. It is hard to imagine the same batting line-up being retained for Trent Bridge, with Shaun Marsh for Adam Voges the most obvious change on the cards, given Marsh has piled up centuries in the tour games.

Whatever XI is picked, they will need to recreate history. Only once in Ashes history has a team come from 2-1 down to claim the urn. That was in 1936-37, when captain Don Bradman scored 212 in Adelaide and 169 in Melbourne to lead the fightback. Australia may need Steven Smith to return to his recent Bradmanesque touch to have any hope of repeating the feat.

England’s outstanding all-round match at Edgbaston has given them every chance of regaining the urn. Another win (or two draws) will do it. The good news for Australia is that England’s recent form is up and down like Tower Bridge: WLWLWLW. The bad news is there are five Tests in this series, not four.

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