Cook and Bell lead the way for England, Sydney, day three

Ian Bell reaches his century

Close: fifth Test, day three, Sydney
Match score: England 488-7 (Prior 54*, Bresnan 0*) lead Australia 280 (Johnson 53) by 208 runs with three first innings wickets remaining
Session score: England 110-2 England win
Session in six words: Cook and Bell slay sorry Australia span>

The headlines tomorrow will talk of the inadequacies of the review system, the questionable morals of the modern player and the mutterings of a former England captain. Ignore them. Think instead of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. This was Bell’s afternoon, in years to come no one will remember the controversy that surrounded his first Ashes hundred. He had 67 when Aleem Dar adjudged that he had nicked Shane Watson behind the wicket. Bell sent the decision upstairs, Hot Spot revealed no edge, and Dar was forced to overrule himself – Bell stayed.

So why the rancour? The Australians were convinced Bell had nicked it, and the player himself took some time to refer the decision. What’s more the Snickometer device – not used in the referral decision – revealed a thin edge, the type of which it appears Hot Spot is incapable of picking up. Is this abuse of a flawed process by Bell? Have your own view, but the problem and the blame is with the system, not a young man in search of his first Ashes hundred.

Bell has struggled in sight of milestones in the past – remember his 199 against South Africa in 2008 – and he had another let-off when Steve Smith spilled a catchable chance off his own bowling. But that aside, his was a controlled innings of the highest class – as pragmatic as it was watchable and full of impeccable judgement. His century celebration seemed one of relief rather than adrenalized enthusiasm, but this was the struggles of 2005 and 2006-07 finally consigned to the past, his first hundred in his 31st innings against Australia.

Alastair Cook had earlier fallen within sight of his second double-century of the tour, but not before he had set England such a platform that he may not get a chance to add to the 766 runs he has already scored out here. Only Bradman (twice), Viv Richards and Everton Weekes have scored more runs from seven innings in a series, oddly all totals scored away from home.

His obduracy, and an entertaining cameo from Matt Prior, meant that by the time Bell finally edged Mitchell Johnson behind the wicket England were virtually assured of a series win. If they manage 12 more runs this will be the fourth time they have passed 500 in five Tests. Australia haven’t managed it once. That is where the difference lies.

Alastair Cook finally departs for 189

Tea: fifth Test, day three, Sydney
Match score: England 378-5 (Cook 188*, Bell 62*) Australia 280 (Johnson 53)
Session score: England 101-0 England win
Session in six words: Cook and Bell slay sorry Australia span>

The sun is finally out in Sydney, and it is the England supporters who will be enjoying it the most. This was the afternoon that they ended any hopes Australia had of levelling the series. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell must be a horrible pair to bowl to – left and right handed, remorseless accumulation and graceful gathering. Today they have combined in a way that England fans have been waiting to see for six years. Finally they look the players they have promised to be.

Again though, they have been helped by bowling and captaincy far below the standard expected and needed in this situation. Michael Clarke has had itchy fingers all day. He changed the bowling seven times in 14 overs after taking the new ball, bowlers changed ends and angles of approach constantly, Steve Smith had to wait 100 overs before getting a bowl, and by the end of the session Mike Hussey was running in. Clarke’s choices were either imaginative, proactive captaincy or desperation. They are certainly in contrast to the tactics that have brought England success, sit in and starve the batsmen of runs.

For their part Cook and Bell just batted – not forcing the pace unnecessarily, but dismissive of the bad balls when the opportunity arose. The partnership moved past 150, and Cook past Denis Compton (753) in the list of English run-scorers in a series. Only Wally Hammond’s 905 is ahead of him now.

Alastair Cook stands his ground

Lunch: fifth Test, day three, Sydney
Match score: England 277-5 (Cook 130*, Bell 20*) Australia 280 (Johnson 53)
Session score: England 110-2 England win
Session in six words: Cook goes on, Colly fails again

It’s pink day at the pink Test at the SCG, in a city that has never been shy to embrace the colour. All around the ground there are pink wigs, pink hats, pink pants – the Jane McGrath foundation must be thrilled at the support this crowd and this game has given them. For his and England’s part, Alastair Cook will be tickled pink that he is still there, going past 700 runs for the series in the process, the fourth England batsman to the mark after Hammond, Sutcliffe and Gower.

Cook had looked uncomfortable against Michael Beer yesterday evening, and the battle carried on into this morning, peaking at the moment when Cook had 99, and turned Beer into the hands of Phillip Hughes at short leg. Or so it seemed, but as the Australians half-celebrated, Cook stood his ground, as replays revealed it had bounced six inches before Hughes’ hands. “Cheating”, huffed Ian Botham in the Sky commentary box. The truth is that when replays are part of the game, players will be happy to see the decision go upstairs. Hughes’ judgement may have been awry in claiming the catch, but he is a young man under pressure on the back of five failures, and Cook is the key wicket in a very important match.

Cook survived, and went on to a hundred that was deserved despite the occasional bit of luck and the odd uppish drive against Beer. The other footnote of the morning was Paul Collingwood’s innings, possibly his last in Test matches. He looked as out of touch as he ever had before skying Beer to mid-off, finally a chance for Beer to celebrate legitimately. But Australia needed more from this session. England are now just three runs behind with five wickets remaining, and if Cook and Ian Bell can avoid stupid dismissals they have an opportunity to put their side in an impregnable position.


One thought on “Cook and Bell lead the way for England, Sydney, day three

  1. I can’t believe that i am going to agree with Botham, but Hughes’ antics were ludicrous. It is criminal to claim a catch when you clearly know you haven’t caught it. No excuse. I hope he gets to shoe-ing he deserves.

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