Australia down 1-2 in Ashes series
Ian Bell struck his second half-century of the match to steer England to an eight-wicket victory over Australia at Edgbaston and take a 2-1 lead in the Investec Ashes today.
Chasing a modest target of 121, Bell (65 not out) injected the innings with crucial impetus after the early loss of Alastair Cook to ensure there were no nerves and once Adam Lyth had also fallen, he and Joe Root (38 not out) saw England across the line in the third Test.
Cook’s side now has a critical lead in the rollercoaster series with two Tests remaining at Trent Bridge and The Oval.
Resuming day three on 168 for 7 in their second innings and with a lead of just 23, Australia were earlier able to push their score to 265 all out, with Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc both hitting enterprising half-centuries.
Nevill (59), circumspect on Thursday evening, was more expansive in the Birmingham sunshine on day three and was fortunate to see an inside edge just miss his off-stump before bringing up his maiden Test fifty in 126 balls.
Jos Buttler thought he had him caught behind with an acrobatic catch down the leg-side off Steven Finn but, with no reviews remaining, England could do nothing about umpire Aleem Dar’s shake of the head.
They did have him soon afterwards though, Buttler taking a fine one-handed catch off the excellent Finn (6-79).
Starc (58) continued unbowed, launching Moeen Ali back over his head for a steepling six to take the lead to 100, before Joe Root took a wonderful reflex catch in the slips to remove Josh Hazlewood (11) and hand Ben Stokes his first wicket.
He should have had his second two balls later when he pinned Nathan Lyon on the back foot, but Dar again shook his head with Hawkeye showing the ball hitting middle-and-leg.
But with England becoming frustrated at watching the lead climb, Starc eventually spooned Moeen Ali to substitute fielder Josh Poysden –– on for the injured James Anderson –– at extra cover to bring the innings to a close.
England’s chase was helped by Michael Clarke’s decision to hold Mitchell Johnson back, which meant England were already 47-1 when the left hander was finally handed the ball.
Cook (7) had been the man to fall at that point –– undone by a beautiful delivery from Starc that moved away –– but Bell provided further proof his move up to No 3 would suit both player and team by counter-attacking in fine style, racing to 32 in 21 balls to give the innings some momentum.
Indeed, England’s longest-serving player was in one-day mode and he was given a life on 21 when his attempt to run the ball down to third man succeeded only in steering straight to Clarke at second slip, but the Australian captain’s miserable game was encapsulated when he couldn’t hold on to the simple chance.
Adam Lyth’s (12) dismissal –– Hazlewood swinging one into his pads –– prompted the under-pressure left-hander to challenge the decision in desperation, but once Hawkeye had confirmed his demise, Bell reined himself in and he and Root chipped away at the target –– Bell reaching his 45th Test half-century in 68 balls.
Australia thought they had Root at 106 for 2 with a flick down leg, but their review proved fruitless and backed by a raucous Edgbaston crowd, England crossed the line shortly before 4 p.m. and will head to Trent Bridge for the fourth Test next week with a crucial lead.