The cricketing summer is really heating up with England looking to inflict as much pain on Australia as possible. Another strong showing on day three of the second Test ensured the hosts were nailed on to lead the series 2-0.
The day had its usual dose of controversy—the third umpire ruled that Steven Smith had not caught Ian Bell despite the Australian insisting otherwise—but it didn't quite hit the heights of Broad-gate from Test one.
Bell set the opening innings alight with another fine display with the bat, but it’s three of his England colleagues who have emerged in the second Test who deserve their share of the plaudits.
Swann is truly a master of spin. He displayed his talents yet again on Friday with a five-wicket haul that helped England dismiss the tourists for just 128. The off-spinner was helped by a series of awful shot choices by his opponents, including Usman Khawaja’s tame attempt of finding a boundary instead only landing in the grateful hands of Kevin Pietersen.
Even the umpires were on his side as Marais Erasmus inexplicably gave a leg before wicket decision against Chris Rogers. The Australian chose to walk instead of risking his nation’s final review after Shane Watson had selfishly blown one.
Swann’s form is likely to crush the Ashes dream of his spin rival, Monty Panesar. As one of them plays a pivotal role in cricket’s finest contest, the other competes in county cricket for Sussex, desperately trying to prove his worth to the selectors. On this showing, Panesar’s attempts will be vain.
Joe Root’s place as opening batsman looked to be under threat, especially after Ian Bell recorded back-to-back centuries. But the 22-year-old defied his critics to post an excellent ton to pull England clear of Australia and towards a 2-0 lead.
His knock wasn't without its iffy moments—he got lucky with an edge on Friday that avoided the awaiting slips—but as his total racked up, so did his confidence.
By the time he reached his century, he had carried England from a dangerous 31-3 at the start of play to a lead approaching 500. It was an innings mature of his young years and was affirmation for the selectors that they made the right call in picking him.
Why did it take Steven Finn’s capitulation to earn Bresnan a place in the side? The Yorkshire bowler slotted seamlessly into the England attack, taking the two early wickets of Watson and Phil Hughes before coming in at nightwatchman on Friday evening to protect his more superior attacking colleagues.
Not that he was keen to move as play started on Saturday. Bresnan hit a highly credible 38—allowing Root the majority of crease time—to help extinguish any signs of Australian belief.
If he can add a few more wickets to his collection in the Aussies’ second innings, his place is all but guaranteed for the third Test at Old Trafford.