Further Ashes controversy as England score heavily
Updated: Friday, 12 Jul 2013 19:07
Ian Bell's highest score in a home Ashes series helped England emerge from another day mired in controversy with a match-winning opportunity at Trent Bridge.
Bell's unbeaten 95 perhaps did not deserve to be overshadowed by any more intrigue in a series only three days old - yet already jam-packed with incident.
But that will doubtless be the case after Aleem Dar failed to pick up an edge so blatant by Stuart Broad, off Ashton Agar, that it carried via a faint deflection off the wicketkeeper's gloves into the safe hands of Australia captain Michael Clarke at first slip.
The tourists had no recourse to DRS, having already used up two permitted reviews, so Broad survived on 37 and was still there at stumps when England reached 326 for six and a lead of 261.
They profited from Broad's good fortune, and judgment of what is acceptable when it comes walking or otherwise, as they also cashed in on the hard work of Bell, Alastair Cook (50) and Kevin Pietersen (64).
England were apparently seething yesterday when they felt they were the wronged party after Jonathan Trott was lbw for a golden duck following what they felt was an unsatisfactory DRS process.
Today, they were the beneficiaries when an obvious edge went undetected - but more than that the concept of sportsmanship, in the rarefied atmosphere of cricket's oldest battle, appeared to be endangered.
Before the whys and wherefore of Broad's reprieve, when England were 297 for six, Cook and Pietersen's century stand and then Bell's skill had already combined to ensure the series' first dominant close-of-play position would belong to the hosts.
We all make mistakes & it's a very tough job being an umpire, but when Dar continually makes crucial mistakes why does he keep getting a gig— Shane Warne (@warne888) July 12, 2013
The last thing England needed was to allow any sense of perceived injustice over Trott's dismissal yesterday - or indeed Agar's survival of a marginal stumping decision, both involving third umpire Marais Erasmus - to deflect them from their primary purpose.
It was to Cook and Pietersen's great credit that they did not, at least until each had a valuable 50 to his name.
The pair had first joined forces at 11 for two, and on a hot and hazy morning took their stand to 110 before Pietersen got a thick edge back on to his middle-stump as he tried to carve James Pattinson through the off-side.
Pietersen's mistake was a shock after he had become progressively assured, particularly with his impressive driving down the ground and through the off-side.
He counted two fours from false shots too, an inside-edge past fine-leg from Peter Siddle's attempted yorker and one off the outside of the bat past cover as he aimed to hit Mitchell Starc to leg.
But Pietersen's 10th boundary, a cover-drive off Starc, was in more authentic mould and completed his 120-ball 50.
Cook stayed long enough, with his third-wicket partner gone, only to reach his first Test half-century at this venue before departing to the 165th ball he faced - a maiden wicket on debut for Agar, Australia's unlikely number 11 batting hero yesterday.
Cook fell to a one-handed slip catch by Clarke, high to his left, when he closed the face and edged one that did not turn from Agar.
Bell was therefore joined first by Jonny Bairstow and then Matt Prior for contrasting stands of 43 and then 44.
Bairstow batted against type, stifling any attacking instincts until he fell to Agar's left-arm spin - walking instantly when he was caught-behind pushing forward in defence. Prior then climbed into a series of trademark boundaries, chiefly through the off-side, but mistimed a pull at Siddle with the second new ball off the shoulder of the bat to midwicket.
Bell has not always been England's most reassuring presence, despite a fine record which has taken him past 6,000 Test runs - and today he also had to defy discouraging statistics which previously gave him an average at home to Australia in the low 20s, including a top score of only 72, and mostly slim pickings too in Nottingham.
But his only scares came when DRS spared him after Kumar Dharmasena initially gave him out lbw to the miserly Shane Watson on 34, before 43 runs later he edged a half-chance past Brad Haddin off Siddle.
Among his 12 fours from 228 balls were a glorious cover-drive to get off the mark and then two memorably deft late cuts between slip and a fine gully in one over, all off Pattinson.
Clarke posted some characteristically eccentric fields to him, and especially Broad - but all to no avail on a day, unlike the previous one, when almost everything went England's way.