England on verge of second test win
Updated: Saturday, 20 Jul 2013 21:09
Joe Root's breakthrough century as a Test opener was value added as England mercilessly ground Australia into an untenable position in the second Investec Test at Lord's.
Root (178no) and Ian Bell (74) took advantage of favourable circumstances in a stand of 153, after nightwatchman Tim Bresnan had first helped his fellow Yorkshireman put on 99, as England lost just two wickets today to close on 333 for five and lead by 566.
Australia will therefore begin day four with any notion of a series-levelling victory surely long gone, already needing to exceed the highest fourth-innings chase in the history of first-class cricket, and on perilous course instead to go 2-0 down with three to play.
For England, already well on top despite stumbling to 31 for three last night, Root's second Test hundred - his first came from number five on his home ground at Headingley against New Zealand - was a heartening bonus after his 41 runs in three previous attempts since his elevation for the start of this series.
Root had 18 from 60 balls when he reconvened on a cloudy morning with Bresnan; seven hours later, he had become England's youngest Ashes centurion at Lord's and had 18 fours and two sixes against his name.
His 334-ball innings was carved out via initially stoic defence, then occasional trademark back-foot attack through the off-side before he began to take more evident toll of an Australia attack who have bowled 210.1 overs to their hosts' 53.3 so far here.
The 22-year-old also became the first batsman past 1,000 first-class runs this season when he reached 70 on another day when nothing consented to go Australia's way.
The tourists' lot was already deeply unenviable when, with England's lead a mere 373, they had a bona fide wicket chalked off.
Bell somehow survived on only three - after consultation with third umpire Tony Hill - when it seemed Steve Smith had taken a low catch as England's first-innings centurion fenced Ryan Harris to gully.
The significance of the reprieve was questionable, with England already in control, but in a series so far full of contentious moments this decision was as unfathomable as any.
Australia's complaints were decidedly low-key, an understandable illustration perhaps of a desperate situation which was only about to get even worse.
Root and Bresnan began the punishment in a White Rose partnership which encompassed the morning and lasted almost into mid-afternoon as England extended a yawning advantage at their leisure.
Bresnan needed 30 balls to get off the mark, with an unconvincing pull for a single off James Pattinson, but he added boundaries through midwicket and cover after Michael Clarke replaced Peter Siddle with Harris from the pavilion end.
Root, who had a moment of fortune on eight yesterday when he edged Shane Watson between wicketkeeper and slip, was entirely unhurried to move past his half-century before lunch.
England's studied progress continued until Bresnan failed to get on top of a pull off Pattinson and was caught at midwicket.
Root was joined by Bell for more torture of the bowlers - all the more so after the latter had his early slice of luck.
Bell soon accelerated beyond an 82-ball 50, to add to his back-to-back hundreds in his last two Ashes innings.
As the Australians evidently flagged, more than 70 runs came in 10 overs. And even after Bell had smashed a long-hop from Smith straight into the hands of midwicket, the only recourse was to delay the second new ball in the hope that the old one might be slightly harder to hit.
If that was the tactic, it did little to halt the runs as Root dominated a second all-Yorkshire stand of 50 or more after he was joined by Jonny Bairstow.
The spinners, on a pitch which had already proved to Graeme Swann's liking for England yesterday, were in the firing line - and 18 runs from Smith's penultimate over of the day included Root's two slog-swept sixes.
Alastair Cook never looked likely to halt the onslaught via a declaration as he and his team-mates, still track-suited rather than in whites, lapped up the unequal spectacle on the pavilion balcony.
With Root now in sight of a maiden Test double-century, Australia can probably expect at least a little more of the same tomorrow before being asked to try to bat out the match on a wearing pitch.