England were always going to fight back in this test match: it was a question of when and not if and for a little over a session on Day 3 at Old Trafford they did just that. By close of play however the Australians had rested back the ascendancy and we now move into day 4 with 33 runs standing between England and the following on.
Here are my 5 keys to day 3 at Old Trafford:
1. Love him or hate KP is one of the best in the world: I know there are many who dislike Kevin Pietersen for what they perceive to be his personality foibles or his, perceived again, lack of commitment to the game. Say what you like about him, I will defy anyone who suggests he is not in the best 5 batters in the world at present. His innings was simply breathtaking with shot making all around Old Trafford and his attack on Nathan Lyon threatened to derail Australia’s day.
2. The “Shermanator” continues his rise: There remain a significant pocket of fans in Australia who continue to not rate Ian Bell. I am not one of them. He has been the best batter in the series to date and showed that again over night with a comfortable knock in which he looked largely untroubled right up to the point where he got out.
3. Where would we be without “Ryno”?: I know Starc has taken more wickets and Siddle has similar figures but yet again in this game Ryan Harris has shown just what Australia has been missing with the limitations injury have placed on this fine fast bowlers career. Two big wickets again over night in Trott and Bell admist spells of quality superior to any bowler in this test match so far show why, when fit, he is one of the best in the world. You will go a long way to see a better ball than the won that extracted Bell, particularly given the position of the game and form of the batsman. When Ryan Harris is bowling, Australia always look like they are on top: there can be no higher compliment for a fast bowler.
4. Starc … erratic, frustrating, wicket taker: I had caused to lament midway through the second session last night that I wondered if the NSP was regretting selecting Starc over Bird given the innocuous manner with which he had bowled up to that point. Yes he had eked out Cook but there was hardly any brilliance in that. I have to concede though that for all of the erraticism that sometimes gets into his bowling he has the X factor about him that means at times he is just unplayable. His efforts to dispatch Pietersen and Bairstow were two such deliveries.
5. More DRS follies: I am getting sick of writing about DRS and, indeed, had placed a self imposed on myself after the Myth’s terrible referral. That ban has only lasted a day however after Australia again showed they simply are not good at using the technology. Pietersen, on 62, fell across his wicket and was, in the eyes of many including Watson (who I am sure has watched a ton of videos last week of himself getting out in the same way), out LBW. Tony Hill declined and the now customer mid wicket conference between bowler, captain and ‘keeper decided not to refer it. Of course the ball was going to hit the stumps and a referral would have seen Hill reversed and Pietersen out 50 runs sooner. Has there been a more poignant moment surrounding DRS this series than Boof Lehmann on the balcony at Old Trafford raising his finger to indicate to Clarke that it would have been out? Australia MUST get better at this!
So there it is: day 3 is in the book and day 4 is only 10 and half hours away. Given the state of the game I do not expect Australia to do anything other than bat again regardless of the follow on and if that happens expect the Myth to elevated in the order. England’s second innings will be one of those moments that N Lyon fans and detractors alike have been waiting for: wearing pitch, large total and opportunity to win the game. It will be fascinating to see what happens next!