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  • England v Australia, 4th Ashes Test, Durham, 4th day

Bresnan leads lower-order surge, Australia set 299

The Report by Daniel Brettig
August 12, 2013

Lunch Australia 270 and 11 for 0 need a further 288 runs to beat England 238 and 330 (Bell 113, Bresnan 45, Harris 7-117)
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Tim Bresnan survived a close lbw against Jackson Bird and went on to play a fine lower-order innings © PA Photos
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Australia were set 299 to win the fourth Test in Durham after England's tail clattered 96 runs in 90 minutes despite another lion-hearted display from Ryan Harris. On a pitch now starting to misbehave noticeably, England owed much to Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann for lower order innings of aggression and good sense.

The Australians will rue an lbw call from Aleem Dar that went against them and in favour of Bresnan in the second over of the second new ball, while a dropped catch by Steve Smith at long-on cost another precious 13 runs. Nevertheless, they all patted the broad back of Harris, who put in an astounding effort given his age and injury history, bullocking through 28 overs for the richest analysis of his Test career.

The six overs that remained to be bowled with the old ball did not trouble Bell and Bresnan, as they steeled themselves for a refreshed Harris. But forewarning is not always enough, and the new projectile immediately started to dance on a pitch showing increasing signs of wear. Bresnan shouldered arms to one ball from Jackson Bird that seamed back and would have clipped the top of the stumps, but that was not enough to overturn Dar's not out verdict - Australia lost their final review.

If Australia were upset by this, they did not have long to wallow. The first ball of Harris's second over was fast, skidding and low of bounce, crashing into Bell's stumps after 254 minutes' batting of the highest class. Matt Prior marched out for precisely one delivery, which kicked up off a similar length to the previous one and crashed into off stump via Prior's arm. Stuart Broad averted the hat-trick and pilfered a trio of boundaries, but was then pinned on the gloves by a vicious bouncer from around the wicket.

Harris now had six wickets and England a lead of 243. Rip out the last two quickly and the match would be finely balanced. But Bresnan had other ideas. Already looking comfortable in the company of Bell and Broad, he moved up a gear, clouting Bird out of the attack with a series of muscular blows, then putting a dent in the figures of Harris. Swann followed up by gliding Peter Siddle's first ball of the morning to the cover fence. Australian shoulders began to slump.

Clarke replaced Siddle with Nathan Lyon, and his maiden calmed the innings. Harris then bowled similarly tightly next over to Bresnan and was rewarded with a return catch and his best figures in Tests. Swann's response to the fall of the ninth wicket was to try to hit Lyon into the stands, and he offered a high, swirling chance to Smith. He was under the ball in plenty of time but did not get entirely balanced, and the ball bounced out of tense hands.

Swann then coshed another vital 13 runs, taking England's lead near enough to 300. They had more than doubled the runs Australia's tail managed to cobble on the previous morning. It appears likely to be a crucial contribution.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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