- England v Australia, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day
Australia build pressure and chip away
England 119 for 4 (Pietersen 33*, Bell 4*) trail Australia 527 for 7 dec by 408 runs
Australian persistence was rewarded with the wickets of Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook, leaving Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell with an enormous task ahead for England after the third morning of the Old Trafford Test. Michael Clarke marshalled his bowlers expertly to corral the hosts, though Pietersen hinted at the damage he could inflict after shrugging off a scratchy start.
Trott and Cook are both capable of playing the long innings England require to make the Ashes safe in this match, so Australian jubilation was clear at dismissing both, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc the successful bowlers. In the dying moments of the session Bell may have given up the thinnest of edges to Brad Haddin off Starc, but only Australia's wicketkeeper went up for the catch.
It was a rare moment in which the visitors were not neatly co-ordinated in their efforts, as all of Harris, Peter Siddle, Starc, Shane Watson and Nathan Lyon delivered decent spells. Lyon was used sparingly as Clarke rotated his quicks, but will be an important figure as the afternoon goes on.
Recovered from an apparent stomach bug, Harris opened up for Clarke alongside Peter Siddle. Their early overs were relentlessly probing, offering only the most occasional scoring chances for Cook and Trott, neither of whom looked comfortable despite a ball that was no longer new and a pitch possessing few demons.
Trott, who had begun the series in grand touch, was particularly scratchy, becalmed in much the same way Joe Root had been the previous night. Unable to get off strike, or hit the middle of the bat, Trott ultimately succumbed while doing his best not to play a shot at all, edging to Clarke at second slip while trying to leave Harris.
Pietersen's first few deliveries were no more convincing, as he fiddled loosely at balls zinging past him outside off stump as though wanting to offer a nick to Australia's cordon. Harris nearly burst a yorker through Pietersen also, but the entry of Starc and Shane Watson to the bowling attack - while Lyon was oddly given only two overs - allowed a little pressure to be relaxed.
With Pietersen scoring freely and Cook carrying on stoically, England appeared set to reach lunch without further loss. But 12 minutes before the break a Starc delivery angling towards Cook's hip drew a fine leg glance and a rasping catch by Haddin, clasping the chance in the tip of his right glove as he dived full length. Bell thus entered the fray needing to make yet another saving score to keep England afloat.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here