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Live Commentary: The Ashes - First Test, day three - as it happened

Read how Ian Bell batted England into a winning position on the third day of the first Ashes Test match against Australia at Trent Bridge, courtesy of Sports Mole's live text coverage.
Live Commentary: The Ashes - First Test, day three - as it happened
© PA Photos

Good morning and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the third day's play of the opening Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Trent Bridge.

It is another sunny day in Nottingham, which bodes well for Alastair Cook's side as they look to bat themselves into a healthy lead.

Captain Cook and Kevin Pietersen will resume at the crease on 37 and 35 respectively after guiding England past Australia's first-innings lead and to 80-2 at the close on Thursday.

Please note, play is due to get underway at 11.00am.

If it is anywhere near as exciting as the first two days, you will not want to miss it!

Morning all! Yesterday was another Ashes day for the archives at Trent Bridge, with Ashton Agar batting himself into the record books. Today, England will be looking to bat themselves into a commanding position.

The hosts closed yesterday with a slender 15-run advantage, having lost the wickets of Joe Root and Jonathan Trott in the second innings, but conditions are again batter friendly today and England will be hoping to push that advantage up to around 250 by occupying the crease for the whole of today's play.

If they are to do that, much of the responsibility will fall on the two resuming batsmen, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, whose 69-run partnership in Thursday's final session helped stall the momentum that was heavily in Australia's favour.

The tourists, meanwhile, will be hoping that their heroic debutante will be able to thwart England once more, this time with the ball. The 19-year-old Agar will have an important role to play with his left-arm spin on a pitch that was already turning sharply by the close of day two.

Agar, making his international bow after just 10 first class-matches, described yesterday as the "best day of his life". He struck a remarkable, fast-paced 98 from number 11 and broke five Test match records along the way.

One person who enjoyed a less fruitful second day was England's Jonathan Trott, who fell lbw to Mitchell Starc's first ball following a successful Australian review. Replays appeared to show that Trott had inside edged the ball onto his pad, but the unavailability of the side-on 'hotspot' angle meant that this was not evident to the third umpire.

Late last night, England made the announcement that they were 'seeking clarification' on umpire Marasis Erasmus's decision and why the technology was not available.

The resumption of play is about five minutes away and both sets of players are beginning to filter out onto the field. Cook and Pietersen emerge to a very warm welcome from the Trent Bridge crowd.

Here we go then, Mitchell Starc will begin with the ball this morning, with Kevin Pietersen on strike. Play!

The left-arm seamer goes around the wicket and begins with a maiden. Despite Starc's tall stature, there is little bounce and Pietersen is happy to come forward immediately, blocking the final two deliveries of the over back to the bowler.

Siddle is thrown the ball from the Pavilion end and he too goes around the wicket, to Cook at least. There is just one slip and a gully in place, and a short catcher on the leg side, which the England skipper comfortably avoids with a single to square leg. Pietersen then inside edges a full toss to the boundary, before punching a much more convincing stroke straight down the ground for a single.

Starc is operating a wide line to Pietersen, trying to tempt him into driving and restricting him from scoring on his favoured leg side. There is just a glimpse of movement away from the right hander, and Pietersen is happy to let many of the deliveries go, but then dances down the wicket and attempts to flick a ball from way outside off stump through mid-wicket. He gets a leading edge and the ball flies through the air, but through the field and to the fence.

He was very economical in yesterday's final session, conceding just eight runs from his nine overs, and Siddle adds another maiden to his figures by dotting Cook up with some disciplined bowling outside of off stump. There is little carry as the ball goes through to Haddin, indicating that this pitch is continuing to slow.

Pietersen moves onto 48 with a superb drive through cover point, which leads Clarke to move a catcher onto the off side. KP has shown this morning that he is looking to play more offensively than he did yesterday evening, but Clarke has responded with a positive move himself, and that new vacancy at mid-wicket could tempt Pietersen to play across the line again.

Another maiden from Siddle to Cook, who has just one run to his name in this opening 25 minutes. That won't bother him, though. If the forecast stays true, time is not an issue in this match and Cook knows that he must bat long if England are to establish a healthy lead.

FIFTY! Pietersen brings up his 31st Test half-centry with another cover drive off Starc which flies to the boundary - his 10th in this 102-ball innings. Very steady going by his standards but he has certainly upped the tempo this morning. He works a single off his hip but Cook misses out on two short balls, that he miscue into the off-side ring, to end the over.

There is a swap in the bowling as Siddle is replaced by Pattinson, who starts with a beauty, beating the outside edge of Pietersen with one that jagged away a fraction quite late. England's 100 is brought up courtesy of a leg bye, before Pattinson draws Cook into a loose drive, similar to the one that saw him dismissed in the first innings, but there is no edge this time.

A change of ends for Siddle, who took his five-wicket haul in the first innings from the Radcliffe Road end from which he is now bowling. He begins with a couple of yorkers that Pietersen manages to dig out, but another attempt to get the ball in the blockhole is inaccurate and is punched down the ground for four.

Cook does not miss out a third time as he takes advantage of some width offered by Pattinson to squeeze the ball through the infield and away to the point fence. Generally though, the Aussie is bowling a good line and nearly sneaks the final ball, one that came in just slightly, through Cook's defences.

PARTNERSHIP! Just the one over for Siddle from the Radcliffe Road end as Clarke turns to spin in the form of yesterday's hero, and new Australian celebrity, Ashton Agar. England show that they plan on not letting the spinner settle as Pietersen runs through for a quick single to mid-off, before Cook uses his feet and flicks the ball over the top and to the mid-wicket boundary, bringing up the hundred partnership in the process.

A good set from Pattinson, from which England take just a single. He is getting the ball to reverse swing fractionally and finds Pietersen's inside edge, which fortunately for England, cannons into his pads. Four dot balls follow before the right-hander pushes the final ball into the covers and sprints through to steal the strike.

More good running from England as KP drops and runs into the offside after coming forward to a good length ball from Agar. Cook rotates the strike again with a single out to the man on the square leg boundary. Again, it appears that the England captain is looking to play the left-arm spinner almost exclusively on the leg side.

WICKET! Pietersen (64) b Pattinson

Massive wicket for Australia as they break the blossoming England partnership, and it is the prize scalp of Pietersen, who chops a back of the length Pattinson delivery onto his stumps! He had edged one through the slips to the boundary earlier in the over, but this time the Aussies get the bit of fortune. KP departs for a very patient 64, and Ian Bell is the new man at the crease.

Turn for Agar, but it is fairly slow and from a ball that started wide of off stump and allowed Cook the time to adjust and nurdle a single through backward point. The debutante then makes new man Bell play at the remaining five deliveries, all of which were in a good area and could trouble the Warwickshire man should they grip in the surface.

FIFTY! Cook's resolve is rewarded as he reaches a 164-ball half century - his joint slowest in Test cricket, courtesy of a single into the leg side. Again though, his strike rate is irrelevant at this stage and now that Pietersen is gone, this milestone is only job half done for the captain. Bell gets off the mark in beautiful fashion, leaning on a trademark drive through the covers. Pattinson then gets consecutive deliveries to move back into the number five, albeit slowly, the first of which results in ambitious lbw appeal, with the following ball flicked fine to the boundary.

WICKET! Cook (50) c Clarke b Agar

Ashton Agar claims his first Test wicket, and it is another crucial one as he has the England captain caught behind! Cook has been trying to play Agar into the on-side all match and he attempts the same tactic here, but gets a leading edge which Clarke grabs very smartly at slip. A huge moment in this match, with England now four down, leading by just 66, and with two new men at the crease. Advantage Australia, certainly.

Agar's follow-up delivery is a disappointing one, a full toss that Bairstow forces through the leg side for two. A couple of excellent stops from Steve Smith at short extra cover ensures that no runs are conceded off the rest of the over.

Really good stuff from Pattinson. Maybe just a tad shorter than ideal on this pitch, but the seamer is bowling a good line and, again, with a hint of reverse swing. The final ball of the over moves back considerably and may have had Bell questioning his decision to leave as it whistled past the stumps.

Bairstow works a length ball away for two, but then smashes a cut from a short Agar delivery straight at backward point. An opportunity missed, but the Yorkshireman picks up a single to the deep cover fielder off the final ball.

'The reluctant bowler', Shane Watson replaces Pattinson and begins with a maiden - his fourth from his four overs so far in this innings. There are four close catchers positioned for Bairstow, including one at short mid-wicket, who could come into play should the Yorkshireman's dominant bottom take over. Watson is bowling very full, and just shaping the ball away from the right-hander, inviting the drive, but Bairstow is resisting the bait thus far.

Clarke switches things up again, bringing back Starc, who goes past the outside edge of Bell with one that moved across the right-hander and then swung away. The England batsman replies by moving across his stumps and nudging a back of a length ball into the on-side for three. Starc swaps to around the wicket for Bairstow, who cuts through point for a couple to end the over.

Watson is now five maidens from five overs, and he is bowling in the corridor to Bell at not much quicker than medium pace, trying to entice the drive that he loves to play.

Consecutive maidens from Australia as we enter the final half-an-hour of this session. England's lead is just 76 and the dismissal of Pietersen has seen the tempo slow dramatically.

Watson's 34th ball of this innings finally yields runs as Bell flicks two into the leg-side. An Australia lbw appeal then follows as Watson straps Bell on the pads with one that moved back in late, but umpire Dharmasena shakes his head. Clarke considers a review but Haddin advices him otherwise. Hawk-eye shows that the ball was just clipping leg stump, but that 'Umpire's Call' would have seen the decision remain the same.

Bell gets low and plays a delicate late cut off Starc, bowling around the wicket, for four through backward point. The Aussie seamer overcorrects and Bell picks up a couple more off his pads. He's moved on to 19 now, and this is the perfect time for him to answer those critics who claim that he does not score 'important runs' in pressure situations.

REVIEW! Pattinson is back into the attack and picks up where he left off, generating some considerable reverse swing out of this 69-over ball. He has Bairstow in trouble with two balls outside off-stump, both of which the Yorkshireman plays at, which keep a tad low. Then some big movement back into the right-hander. Bairstow leaves a ball that shapes back in dramatically and nearly embarrasses him, and is then struck on the toe, leading to a huge Australia appeal. England scamper through for a single, which is awarded as runs. Australia review, which proves to be a waste as hawk-eye shows that the ball was comfortably missing leg. There didn't seem to be any bat on it though, so a bonus run for Bairstow. Australia are now out of referrals.

England take three off Mitchell Starc's final over before lunch, but it could have been more had Phil Hughes not produced an excellent diving stop in the covers. The next over will probably be the final action before prior to the break.

Another excellent set from Pattinson, who is somehow making this very worn ball talk. He is causing Bairstow all sorts of problems when the ball is pitched up and swinging, but a delivery banged into the deck allows the England number six to flick two of his hips.

LUNCH! Australia turn to spin to squeeze in another over before lunch, but bowling over the wicket to the right hander allows Bell to pad up safely to most of Agar's deliveries and ensure no more damage is done prior to the interval. The break is taken with Bell on 20, Bairstow 13 and England leading by 92. That was Australia's session.

England extended their lead to 92, but that was a very good morning for Australia. The crucial dismissals of Pietersen and Cook, who was Ashton Agar's maiden Test wicket, have put Australia in the ascendancy, and with the new ball just eight overs away, England face a tough second session.

I will be back to guide you through the post-lunch action at around 1.40pm. In the meantime, I suggest you join me and the cricketers in grabbing a bite to eat. You wouldn't want to miss any of the cricket while making your sandwich! See you shortly...

I'm back, and so are the players. Pattinson to bowl to Bairstow, who looked unconvincing in the 48 minutes that he batted prior to lunch.

Pattinson starts a little short and Bairstow tucks a single off his hip, out to one of the two fielders occupying the leg-side boundary. Bell follows his partner in picking up an on-side single. Quite why there are two men back the first over after lunch, I'm not sure.

Siddle charges in from the Radcliffe Road end, and after four dot balls, Bell cuts behind square and when Agar fails to get down, he picks up three. Sloppy fielding from the 19-year-old.

More good stuff from Pattinson, but Bell is equal to it, showing the maker's name when playing a forward defensive under his nose to a delivery that swung in sharply. The Warwickshire man then picks up two behind square, before he nearly chops on trying to punch through the off-side off the back foot, a la Pietersen, to another one that reverses late. That was close, just bouncing over the stumps.

Bairstow plays and miss with a couple of ugly swats at wide deliveries from Siddle, but then plays a much better stroke into the off-side that goes straight to a fielder. Maiden for Australia.

Bell plays two identical, skilful late cuts that split the catchers behind square on the off-side and both shots race along the floor to the third man boundary. That's an area he has found prosperous so far in this innings. He moves onto 34 as England's lead is extended to 107.

The workhorse that is Peter Siddle bowls another maiden to Bairstow, but there is no real movement as there is at the other end with Pattinson. Bairstow gets strongly in behind to defend the full, straight deliveries, and then resists a short, wide offering from Siddle that deserved far less than the dot it will be represented by in the scorebook.

REVIEW! With the new ball just twelve balls away, Clarke opts to rotate his bowlers again, bringing on Watson for Pattinson, who has already got through 11 overs today. On the final ball of another maiden, Watson gets one to come back in and strap Bell on the pads. A big appeal follows and umpire Dharmasena puts his finger up! Bell is given, but reviews it. Hawk-eye goes on to show that the ball was doing just too much, and was missing leg stump. A lifeline for Bell , whose reprieve is greeted with the biggest Trent Bridge cheer of the day!

WICKET! Bairstow (15) ct Haddin b Agar

Agar comes back into the attack, a change probably made only to refresh the seamers ahead of the new ball, but it brings a wicket! He doesn't quite get his length correct at the start of the over and Bairstow and Bell each pick up a single, but with the former back on strike, Agar gets it just right and finds some sharp turn and a thin edge from Bairstow, which glovesman Haddin takes behind the stumps!

The new ball is now available, but Clarke is sticking with the old one for now, a decision possibly based on the wicket that has just fallen. Matt Prior is the new man in, but he doesn't face a ball as Bell blocks out consecutive Watson maidens. This partnership is now huge for England, with just the tail, who folded tamely in the first innings, still to come.

Clarke has a sweeper patrolling the off-side fence and Prior, off the front foot, and then Bell, off the back foot, each pick him out to collect singles. England's lead is now 111, which is about half of the minimum advantage that they would like to establish.

Bell plays compactly and straight to Watson's tame away swing, but regardless of the lack of pace, Australia's fourth seamer has done a fantastic job of keeping the run rate down and maintaining the pressure on the England batsmen. His figures of 9-8-2-0 are are as economical as you will ever see!

After a three-over delay, Clarke takes the new ball and choose Starc as the man to have first use of the fresh, dark red cherry. There is immediate signs of swing into the right hander as Prior flicks one off his legs for a single, before good work from Ed Cowan on the square leg boundary restricts Bell to a couple from a similar shot.

The impressive Pattinson will share the new ball with Starc, as he has done throughout the match. He has a slip and a gully for Prior, and two catchers square on the off-side. Prior loves width, and when Pattinson offers him some, he goes after it, connecting with the toe end of his bat as the ball rolls to the third man boundary. An attempted bumper at Bell slows up in the pitch and the Warwickshire man helps it round the corner to the fine leg fence to move into the forties. Pattinson may have a new ball in his hand, but this pitch is too slow to be bowling that length.

The danger with a new ball, from the bowling team's point of view, is that it comes off the bat quicker. Prior demonstrates this by firstly cutting Starc through point for four and then latching onto a short ball and pulling him for the same result. The players take drinks, with England's lead now 131 and Prior having upped the tempo as Pietersen did this morning.

The first few deliveries with the fresh cherry appeared to swing in slightly, but there is little sign of movement from Pattinson, who was reversing the old ball considerably. So far, the taking of the new ball is benefitting England, but it is very early days.

Starc's new-ball spell lasts just two overs as Siddle replaces him at the Radcliffe Road end. Prior drives straight but Starc, now in the field, gets down well to prevent a run. The England wicket-keeper does get off strike with one out to square leg. Bell also picks up a single, opening the face to find the gap between backward point and deep gully.

Superb shot from Bell, possibly the stroke of the day, as he punches Pattinson with a straight bat through the covers off the back foot. The ball crosses the rope at some pace to bring up the England 200 and move Bell to within three of 50.

An early roll for Agar, considering that the new ball is only six overs old. The ball is harder and should bounce more, which suits Prior, who waits patiently on the back foot before cutting the spinner through point for four. He picks up a single off the last ball to extend England's lead to 143.

Another Australia bowling change, with Peter Siddle swapping ends, and the plan of bowling to Matt Prior's strength, with a reinforced off-side field, nearly works. He cuts aerially, but just over the stretching hand of Ed Cowan, who is sitting on the edge of the imaginary ring, for four through backward point. A taller fielder may have been able to reach that! A half chance, perhaps.

A poor over from Agar, but one that does not yield a run. Bell missed out on a full toss, a couple of deliveries fired down the leg side and a short, wide one too. Several opportunities for the Warwickshire man to bring up his 50, all missed.

Good cricket from Prior, superbly driving an over-pitched Siddle delivery through mid-off for four and then clipping one of his legs and sprinting through for two more. His 31 off 41 balls has upped the tempo and taken England's lead past 150.

WICKET! Prior (31) ct Cowan b Siddle

Oh, the dreaded commentator's curse strikes. Perhaps one shot too many from Prior, although the short ball from Siddle was there to be hit. Prior's pull is slightly miscued and this time Cowan is just about tall enough to take the catch on the jump at short mid-wicket! Another big wicket for Australia, who now have the England bowlers in their sights.

Bell picks up a single, stroked through the off-side, off the fifth ball of Agar's over, leaving new batsman Stuart Broad, nursing a shoulder injury, of course, to see out the final delivery. Broad seems to be donning protective shoulder pads, which may well act as a target for the Aussie quicks. He has a big job to do here, though. England will be fearful if they don't establish a lead of 250.

A tame waft at the first ball from Bell, who plays and misses. However, in general, it was another solid over of defence from the England number five, on whom much of the responsibility now falls. He is due a score too, as he's without a 50 so far this summer.

Big appeal for lbw against Broad, but Australia are out of reviews. The replays show that the Nottinghamshire man got some bat on it, anyway. Next ball, Bell calls him through for a leg bye but nothing off the bat, so consecutive maidens for the tourists.

FIFTY! Bell becomes the third Englishman to make a half-century this innings, and this 127-ball effort is his first fifty of the summer. He drives Pattinson for two before picking up a couple more through point, which brings up another milestone - 6,000 Test runs. If he can add fifty more to that tally in this innings, he may well bat England into a winning position.

Broad is facing a mixture of short stuff, from Pattinson, and a full, swinging approach from Starc. It is the latter that has troubled him more thus far, but Broad will feel that he missed out on one that angled into his pads. England pick up another leg bye before Starc loses his line and Bell flicks him fine to the boundary.

The last over before tea. Pattinson attempts to get the ball around Broad's shoulders, but the pitch is not cooperating and on the last of his three 'bumpers', the ball passed Broad at around knee height and made it through to Haddin on the second bounce. The intent is there, though, and I am sure that Broad will put this spell from Australia's young seamer in his memory bank for when the tables are turned. The hometown boy survives the over and England leave the field with a lead of 165.

It has been a very gritty effort from Bell, who will rarely have worked harder for a half-century. He will resume unbeaten on 56, while Broad has just one to his name. England will be hopeful of batting for the remainder of the day and pushing their lead beyond 200 and perhaps up to 250. If they are to achieve that, Bell is the key man.

Agar gets the first go after tea and perhaps should have had a wicket. Broad pads up to a turning ball, which haw-eye shows would have gone on to hit off stump. Australia have wasted their reviews though, so cannot challenge the umpire's decision to say not out.

Broad hits two fours to welcome Siddle back into the attack. He firstly creams a square drive from deep in his crease to the rope before squeezing one through backward point, which teases Agar as it trickles to just short of the boundary. Broad and Bell put the yards in, though, and still pick up four thanks to good running.

Bell continues to be reserved since the resumption of play and blocks out a maiden from Agar.

Broad is playing the short ball well, although Siddle isn't really generating much pace or bounce out of this fairly dead pitch. One attempted bouncer only reaches hip height and flicks off Broad's thigh pad and away for four. There are singles available too, and Broad and Bell both help themselves as England limp towards a 200-run lead.

Five comes from the latest Agar over, including two more leg byes and Clarke will just be feeling that England aren't working hard enough for their runs here. Every run is vital and Australia have gifted seven in extras from just the last two overs.

An unconvincing prod and inside edge into the on-side gives Broad one. Bell puts his teammate back on strike with a flick to deep square leg, Mitchell Starc's direct hit from the boundary rendered irrelevant when Bell turns down the second run. Siddle beats Broad with a slower ball to finish the over.

Clarke removes the man on the 45 to invite Broad to sweep, and he misses when he immediately tries to paddle one around the corner. Another inside edge into the leg side gives him a single, and Bell then capitalises on a full ball from Agar and flicks him through mid-wicket for three. England's lead is now 195, and this partnership has already contributed 42.

Watson is back into the attack, and, shock horror, it isn't a maiden! Broad digs a yorker out into the leg side and calls Bell through for a quick single, which they comfortably make due to Siddle's wayward throw. Watson has now gone for three from his 10 overs. He is leaking runs. Clarke might want to think about taking him off...

It is Agar to continue, and Broad dabs one behind square to get off strike first ball. The 19-year-old then drops a bit short, and Bell waits on the back foot and punches through the off-side for two. Another over goes by without a wicket-taking threat for Australia. They would like to end this partnership quickly, before too much damage is done, so something needs to change.

Broad isn't afraid to drive Watson, but cannot break the off-side ring as he twice middles it straight to Chris Rogers with well-hit shots, and then finds Agar at point with another sweet hit. He doesn't middle the next two though, inside edging through to Haddin, who makes a smart stop, and then nicking one just short of Clarke at first slip. Eventful over, but after all that, just another Watson maiden.

England's lead goes past 200 when Bell tucks one of his hip, but his partner, Broad, is riding his luck a little. Another inside edge, off new bowler Starc, misses the stumps on its way through to fine leg for a single, but England's number eight has shown a definite willingness to go after anything slightly wide.

A tenth maiden from Shane Watson, who is just moving the ball ever so slightly back into Broad's pads, looking for an lbw, should the England all-rounder attempt another aggressive drive.

PARTNERSHIP! Bell drops the ball into the leg-side and runs with a purpose, but they eventually settle for just a single. Broad finally breaks the off-side field with a thumping drive off a Starc half volley that brings up the half-century stand between the pair in the 112th over of this innings.

Captain Clarke sacrifices the economy of Watson for one of his wicket-taking bowlers, Pattinson, and immediately pays the price in runs, as the over goes for 11. Bell plays away from his body, but his good hands steer the ball through third man for three. Broad then splits two fielders with a very uppish cut shot that bounces a couple of times before it crosses the rope and an expensive over is concluded when England pick up four more leg byes, with Pattinson straying from his line again.

A double bowling change as Agar comes back into the attack and what follows is nearly a superb catch under the helmet from Cowan, who anticipated the path of the ball as Broad went down on one knee to play a lap sweep. It came off the face of Broad's bat, and he got a hand to it, but it just didn't stick. That wasn't even a half chance, but Cowan nearly snatched the Aussies a much-needed wicket from nowhere.

Another alteration in the bowling attack, with Pattinson hauled off for Siddle. He bowls an excellent line to Bell, with a silly point and a short extra cover in place, looking for an aerial drive. Bell keeps the ball on the floor, though, and just one comes from the over.

The little things are going England's way here, as Broad skies a sweep that a sprinting Hughes cannot reach on the square leg boundary. Four more to England, and this lead is becoming more and more favourable.

Australia are in desperate need of a wicket here, and Clarke is trying everything possible to get one. He has THREE men on the drive on the off-side to Broad, but the half chance comes from a run-out appeal. Pattinson throws at the bowler's end, misses, and nearly catches Bell napping as he jogs into his ground at the keeper's end. Haddin comes up to the stumps to force the Warwickshire man to play from his crease, but Siddle drops short and Bell guides him through third man for four.

Drinks are taken with England leading by 232, and Broad and Bell having put on 77 for this seventh wicket thus far. A side note - the hosts have been warned for running down the middle of the wicket, perhaps doing so to try and create some foot holes for Swann to bowl into during Australia's second innings.

DRAMA! Agar bowls a maiden to Broad, but that isn't half the story! From the final ball of the over, Broad gets a thick edge when playing back and it comes off Haddin's glove and straight to Clarke at first slip. The Aussies celebrate, the television scoreboard changes, but umpire Aleem Dar is unmoved. Broad meets Bell in the middle of the pitch for the end-of-over discussion, and Australia can't believe it. Broad has middled it, but they have no reviews left! An absolute howler of a decision!

DROP! Salt in the wounds for the tourists as Haddin puts down a difficult diving chance after Siddle found the edge of Bell's bat. He gets a glove to it, but can't hold on. The ball trickles away to the boundary for the only runs of the over. It just isn't going Australia's way at the moment, but the English crowd are loving it!

Broad was showing some attacking intent against Agar in the previous owner, but he seemed to content to block most of those deliveries straight back to the debutante. Maybe he feels that he needs to make the most of this second chance he has been gifted!

Consecutive maidens for Australia and amid all the chaos going on at the other end, Bell is looking remarkably calm and solid in defence. He's on 81, from 195 balls and is answering those critics who claim that he does not score runs when England need him to most.

Just a single from Agar's 30th over, and it comes off the bat of Broad. Every run he scores now will frustrate the left-arm spinner and his captain.

This is Siddle's longest spell of the day, and Bell is playing him with increasing comfort. There is very little, if any movement, especially away from the right-hander, which allows Bell to play another late cut through the catchers behind square. In the circumstances, it's a safe shot, and one he's played well all day.

Bell faces the 200th ball of his long stay at the crease as him and Broad each pick up a single from another Agar over. The teenager has bowled with discipline in this third session, and has occasionally extracted some spin from the pitch.

The miserly Watson comes back into the attack and surprise, surprise, it's another maiden from the batting all-rounder, who, it could be argued, has been underused by his captain. He's bowled excellent areas and has consistently been shaping the ball away from the right-handers. Perhaps Clarke's reluctancy to bowl him is due to his sketchy fitness record.

More good stuff from Agar to Broad. The left-arm spinner is bowling around the wicket, looking to pitch the ball into the rough, but Broad is getting a big stride in and negating the threat when the ball is pitched up.

It took England 84 balls to hit a boundary off Shane Watson, with Bell the man to blot his row in the scorebook with another one of those guided cut shots, just to the left of gully.

Agar changes up and goes over the wicket to Bell, who is prepared to kick anything that pitches outside of leg stump away with his pad. A change of approach is needed from Clarke, England are, in general, just too comfortable.

PARTNERSHIP! There is a tired look to the Australian side as Broad flashes at a floaty, wide Watson offering and gets it through the infield and away to the boundary through point. That shot brings up the hundred partnership between this seventh-wicket pair, and what a crucial stand this has been for England.

UPDATE: England lead by 257. Bell 92, Broad 46. A little turn for Agar but it is very slow and Bell is able to adjust, and force the ball through the leg side for two to move into the nineties.

Broad quickly gets Bell back on strike and he rolls his wrists on a pull, which earns him two as the Aussie fielder retrieves it on the square leg boundary. England's number five is now on 94, and survives an lbw appeal from new bowler Pattinson, with replays showing a clear inside edge onto the pad.

A maiden should finish Agar's work for the day. It's been another impressive display from such a young cricketer, on such a big stage. A day that would have been soured, though, by the controversy over Broad's non-dismissal.

The last over of the day, and Bell survives it, just, digging out a yorker that just avoids the stumps following an inside edge. Clarke puts three gullys in for the final delivery to Broad, and Pattinson responds by sliding one down the leg side, which Haddin takes brilliantly.

CLOSE: England 326-6 (Lead of 261), Bell 95*, Broad 48*

An excellent last session for England, whose seventh-wicket pair of Bell and Broad batted unbeaten for over two hours unbeaten, extending their team's lead to something that is already defendable.

Bell was certainly the star of the show, gritting out a patient 95 which became slightly more pleasurable, if not fluent, as the day went on. He will hope to reach an 18th Test century tomorrow morning and push England's advantage past what should be an unassailable 300 plus lead.

It was another memorable day, but a day of hard work for debutante spinner Ashton Agar, who claimed his first Test scalp in the form of home captain Alastair Cook. He chipped in with two wickets, with Pattinson and Siddle the others to pick up dismissals today. The underused Starc and Watson were economical, but unrewarded in the wicket-taking column.

So, it was England's day, and they have now batted themselves into a potentially winning position. Thanks for joining Sports Mole today, and be sure to rejoin us tomorrow as this enthralling match continues.

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England's Kevin Pietersen in action during day two of the first Ashes Test on July 11, 2013
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