Having decided not to put the Australians in to bat despite having the option to enforce the follow-on, England added just 80 runs to their total in the afternoon session of the third day at Lord’s, finishing on 130 for 2, 340 runs ahead of Australia.
England would have been hoping for an advantage of 500 plus with two days remaining, so the period which saw out of sorts Bopara and Pietersen fail to score a boundary in 11 overs must have caused consternation in the dressing room.
England have to come out and score more freely after tea if their decision to bat rather than take Australian wickets is to be vindicated: the day is not lost, but these two batsmen need to start hitting some kind of shots.
Strauss and Cook after a fine start at around 5 runs per over came out after lunch and both were dismissed at the hands of off-spinner Nathan Hauritz who showed no ill effects from his finger injury on the first day – gaining revenge on Andrew Strauss who inflicted that injury by dismissing him courtesy of a Clarke catch on 32. Hauritz had trapped Cook LBW on the same score (32) moments before.
Cue Bopara and Pietersen to come in with the pressure off just slightly and both needing a score to get their series off the mark. Both players looked considerably more nervous than they do ordinarily, and, but for continuing Australian bowling inconsistency, could and perhaps should have expected to be returning to the pavilion by tea. As it was, they contributed runs slowly, and got lucky on more than one occasion – Bopara appeared to have been caught by Hauritz but the third umpire adjudged it to have grassed as it went into the hands.
Bopara was also dropped by Australian captain, Ricky Ponting (pictured).
England need to score over 100 runs quickly after tea or they risk this day slipping away from them. They have wickets, and the firepower, in hand to do this, and the Australians are providing enough loose deliveries, so it would seem the game-plan can get back on track.
If KP can come out swinging this evening and free his arms, we could see some exciting cricket as England must prove their decision to bat was the right one.