Ian Bell played the innings of his life but a Broad incident marred a good day for England at Trent Bridge
Agar may have been the star of the day yesterday but Day 3 of the first Investec Ashes Test match belonged to England. The home side finished the day firmly on top on 326-6, with a commanding lead of 261 runs. The lifeless nature of the pitch meant, that for large part of the day the fast bowlers were impotent. So slow and dead was the wicket, that at one stage Brad Haddin even stood up to Peter Siddle.
To their credit however the Australians kept it extremely tight, evident by the fact that aside from Prior no England batsman had a strike rate over 42. Shane Watson's figures of 0-11 off 15 overs were the most impressive thing he's done so far in this Test.
Cook and Pietersen both scored well deserved half centuries which could yet prove crucial in the context of the game. But they had to work very hard. Pietersen stemmed his natural attacking instinct to play a measured innings of 64 off 150 balls.
On a day when the run rate never threatened 3 runs per over, Two major stories did emerge.
Ian Bell grinds out a solid innings.
Given the graveyard nature of the pitch, the only way the England batsmen were going to lose their wickets was through false shots. Bell prospered by hardly putting a foot wrong with his shot selection. It was a defiant innings which portrayed his ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
Perhaps the best thing about his innings was his ability adapt to the wicket, as majority of his runs came behind square, through the third man area. Playing predominantly on the back foot, he used the pace of the Australian bowlers well and aside from one edge which Haddin failed to gather and an inside edge, it was a chance-less innings. England fans would've wanted to see him score his hundred tonight but they'll have to wait, he resumes on 95 tomorrow. Most observers are already calling this his best innings for England. It'd be hard to argue with that if England win the Test match. If he loses his wicket early tomorrow morning however it could be yet another case of what could've been.
Broad's failure to walk when an Agar delivery took a thick edge from his bat sparked a fiery walk/not walk debate on twitter. Australia's wasteful nature of reviews cost them dearly as a bad decision from Aleem Dar cost them the crucial breakthrough at the end of the day. The "modern" not walking culture in cricket means honesty when you've blatantly hit the ball has become less frequent. Players and pundits have openly offered a plethora of excuses for this act of dishonesty. "Grey area", "everyone does it", "wait for umpire's decision", "every right to stand there" to name but a few.
Whatever your view the match referee and ICC may have to review the incident. There is a case to answer for bringing the game into disrepute. A point Michael Holding made clear in a post match interview. Ramdin was banned for two matches and fined 50% of his match fee on the grounds of "Conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game."
Aleem Dar clearly got the decision wrong, he may have been unsighted, but Stuart Broad and everyone else in the ground knew he'd hit it. Broad's refusal to walk knowing full well that Dar had missed a blatant edge could easily be seen as "conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game". It is unlikely the ICC will take action remarked Bob Willis, he's probably right. If indeed they don't, it may be seen as a clear case of double standards.
Like every player before him who's shown similar dishonesty, Broad will have to live with his decision. Deep down on reflection maybe he knows he should have walked, we'll never know. It certainly sets a dangerously bad example for youngsters watching the game. Winning is more important than honesty? It was interesting to see the response of young cricketers on twitter timeline immediately afterwards. One tweet read "Broad is my new hero", sad times. There certainly is no hope of Chris Broad talking his son out of the none walking camp. Gooch had to drag him off the field in Pakistan 26 years ago after he refused to walk.
The strangest part of this whole episode was the Australian reaction to the incident. Had Ponting been in charge, a five minute delay caused by finger waving may have been the talking point.
Looking forward to DAY 4, all this hoopla significantly spices up the contest further, that's for sure. If the first three days are anything to go by, Day 4 promises to be another gripping contest.
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