• England v Australia, 4th Ashes Test, Durham, 3rd day

Pietersen and Bell steady England

The Report by Daniel Brettig
August 11, 2013

Tea England 123 for 3 (Bell 37*, Pietersen 37*, Harris 3-40) lead Australia 270 (Rogers 110, Watson 68, Broad 5-71) by 91 runs
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Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell's unbroken partnership reached 74 by tea © Getty Images

Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen launched a firm counterattack for England on the third afternoon of the fourth Test after Ryan Harris had excelled with bat and ball to heighten Australian hopes of victory in Durham. A trio of wickets to Harris either side of lunch, starting with a glorious delivery to defeat Joe Root, had slid England to 49 for 3, but Bell's unbroken union with Pietersen was worth 74 and the overall lead 91 by the time tea was taken.

Australia lost much of the ground they had gained through Chris Rogers with the loss of their last five wickets for 46 in the morning, but Harris ensured the tourists had reason for optimism by tilting back Root's off stump then following up by disposing of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott.

Brad Haddin and Rogers had failed to keep their wickets intact before the second new ball was taken, leaving Harris to provide the only major resistance with an innings of some fluency. Graeme Swann and James Anderson did the majority of the damage, before Stuart Broad notched a deserved five-wicket tally.

England began comfortably enough, but Harris conjured a ball that whirred in towards Root before zipping sharply away off the seam to beat the outside edge but not the off stump. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott seemed intent on swifter scoring than on day one, and appeared to be doing it well until Cook drove at the line but not the length of a Harris ball going across him and edged behind.

Harris was by now bowling at a slippery pace, and in his next over Trott was late on a hook at a well-directed bouncer and managed only to glove it, whereupon Haddin held a sharp chance. At effectively 17 for 3 England were wavering badly, but Pietersen and Bell set about calming the innings with good sense and sound placement.

Bell prospered through his pet dabs down to third man, an area Clarek kept mystifyingly vacant until England's No. 5 had made a decent start. Pietersen was troubled by the odd short ball, but signalled his greater comfort by pulling Siddle twice towards the legside boundary. The runs accrued steadily, Clarke shuffling his bowlers around but unable to conjure the fourth wicket. He also moved from slip to mid-off, a bothersome sign for Australia that his back was creaking.

Rogers and Haddin had resumed in the morning with thoughts of establishing a significant lead, but ultimately were unable even to reach the second new ball, due within six overs of the resumption. Haddin went back when he might have pressed forward against Swann and was lbw, the wicketkeeper's referral made for a ball that was hitting middle and off after straightening from around the wicket.

Following his enormous contribution to Australia's cause on day two, Rogers did not quite find the right rhythm, and shortly before the 80th over arrived he stretched to defend Swann and found extra bounce grazing his glove before floating up off pad for Matt Prior to dive alertly and claim the catch. Tony Hill was unconvinced but shown to have erred, England's review ending Rogers' innings.

England thus took the new ball with only three wickets left to claim and Australia's tail longer than at any other time in the series. Peter Siddle snicked Anderson low to first slip and Nathan Lyon lasted only seven balls before walking across his crease and succumbing lbw, even if Hawk-Eye suggested Anderson's nip-backer would have slid past leg stump. Three consecutive Harris boundaries off Broad stretched Australia's advantage handily, but in the next over Harris was pinned in front of the stumps. A decision review was again required to contradict Hill's judgment.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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