Ashes: England set Australia 412 target to win 1st Test

  • AP, Cardiff, Wales
  • Updated: Jul 11, 2015 01:13 IST
England’s Ian Bell hits a four on Day 3 of the first Ashes Test between England and Australia, at Cardiff, Wales, on July 10, 2015. Fifties from bell and Joe Root helped England reach 289 in the 2nd innings, setting Australia a 412-run target to win. (Reuters Photo)

Fifties from Ian Bell and Joe Root in the second innings on Friday helped England set a formidable target of 412 runs for Australia to win the first Ashes Test, despite a late collapse by England to get all out for 289 at stumps on day three.

After Australia collapsed in the morning to be all out for 308, giving the English side a substantial 122-run lead, the day finished with the English all out for 289 under the floodlights at Sophia Gardens.

In a Test edged by the English over the first two days, they finally achieved separation on a remarkable third morning, when Australia withered in the face of outstanding bowling by the pacemen.

Australia began day three needing to score big. It didn't happen. Then they needed to take wickets, rather quickly, and that didn't happen either. That left Australia with two days to pull off a record chase in the Ashes, the third-highest ever. And the Australians will not have been heartened by watching 15 wickets fall for 333 runs on Friday on a pitch that was defying expectations.

The day began horribly for the visitors, as England took 5-44 in less than 15 overs to dismiss them. Bolstered by a first-innings lead in an Ashes opener for the first time since 1997 at Edgbaston, 10 series ago, England piled on the misery in two big, rapid-fire partnerships involving Ian Bell, the last person anybody expected to play a starring role.

Bell, averaging six in his last nine innings, including 1 in the first of this Test, rediscovered his touch to score 60. He shared 51 runs with opener Adam Lyth (37), and 97 runs with Joe Root (60) to lead England to a lead of almost 300 after tea. Through it all, the sun-drenched English in the capacity crowd celebrated their team with songs and chants.

It took until only the second over of the day for England to spike the Australians, when Shane Watson, their last recognized batsman, was lbw for a sixth time to Stuart Broad. Umpire Marias Erasmus took a long time to raise his finger, and Watson inevitably asked for a video review, which confirmed his leg stump was clipped.

Watson added only four to his 26 overnight, and triggered a stunning collapse from 265-6. Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (6) was caught plumb by Mark Wood, and in successive overs went wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (22), Mitchell Johnson (14), and Mitchell Starc (0).

All four England bowlers, plus allrounder Ben Stokes, shared in the wickets with James Anderson taking 3-43 and producing remarkable movement with the second new ball.

Starc, running on a sore ankle, also made the ball swing in reply, and prised out England captain Alastair Cook before lunch. When Gary Ballance was out for a duck straight after lunch, Bell joined opener Adam Lyth with England on 22-2. They suddenly tore into Australia, hitting 41 runs, including seven boundaries, in four overs off Josh Hazlewood and Starc.

The surge was the last thing Australia needed, and both fast bowlers were replaced at the same time. The double change worked. Offspinner Lyon had Lyth out for 37, the thick edge forcing Michael Clarke back to his left to make a great, diving, one-handed catch.

Since his century in the first innings of the first Test against the West Indies in mid-April, Bell's scoring had suddenly dried up. But his confidence didn't appear to have deserted him, and his 10th boundary brought up his 16th Ashes half-century.

He was bowled by a straight one, giving Johnson his first wicket in the match after conceding 161 runs. Root, the first-innings century-maker, was being himself, waiting for a loose delivery and finding plenty, and made 60 in no time until he was bowled by Hazlewood.

The wheels fell off the England train after that, apart from entertaining cameos by Moeen Ali and Wood, 32 off 26 balls, to help push England's lead past 400 and into rarefied Ashes air.

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