By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford
A valuable hundred from Kevin Pietersen enhanced England’s hopes of retaining the Ashes at Emirates Old Trafford.
Pietersen knuckled down to strike 113 - his 23rd format ton - on day three of the third Investec Test as England reached 294 for seven in reply to their opponents’ 527 for seven declared.
Although Australia clearly held the upper hand at stumps, they must win this game if they are to reclaim the little urn. With that in mind, it was significant that England moved to the brink of avoiding the follow-on, particularly with showers anticipated over the remaining two days. Thirty-four more runs were needed to make Australia bat again.
On a day when he became England’s record run-scorer in international cricket, surpassing current batting coach Graham Gooch, Pietersen displayed his maturity in defying the tourists for 206 deliveries.
The 33-year-old’s first fifty spanned only 71 balls, yet he was forced to work harder for his rewards thereafter as Australia plugged away on a surface that appeared to offer a little more assistance to seamers in terms of lateral movement.
Alastair Cook took his score on to 62 this morning and Ian Bell continued his wonderful form by contributing a fluent 60, yet it was Pietersen - a year to the day since his Headingley hundred against South Africa - who offered the staying power England required.
Only 12 runs had been added to the overnight score of 52 for two when Jonathan Trott edged a length ball from Ryan Harris to Michael Clarke at second slip.
Pietersen aimed a wild waft outside off stump at the first delivery he faced and remained skittish in the early stages of his innings.
However, after Cook had moved patiently past 50, the Surrey batsman clicked into gear with successive crunching pulls off Mitchell Starc.
Pietersen continued to exhibit attacking intent prior to lunch, yet there was a further setback for the hosts when Brad Haddin pulled off a terrific diving catch down the leg side to account for Cook.
Starc, whose battle with Pietersen provided the highlight of the morning, was the fortuitous bowler and came close to another wicket when beating the edge of Bell. Haddin was convinced the ball had brushed bat, but nobody else appealed.
The afternoon session started with a bang as England took a liking to Nathan Lyon’s off-spin.
Successive sixes over long-on and long-off took Pietersen past 50 in style and Bell subsequently joined the party with a maximum of his own off Lyon, who was withdrawn from the attack after conceding 29 in four overs.
There was a stroke of luck for Pietersen immediately after drinks. Replays showed Australia should have called for a review after an lbw appeal from Shane Watson had been turned down by umpire Tony Hill.
Yet Bell’s progress remained serene, with two delightful late cuts off Starc epitomising the form of a player seeking his fourth hundred in as many Ashes matches.
Two milestones arrived on the stroke of tea when Bell clipped Peter Siddle for three to bring up his own half-century and the hundred partnership.
England’s form batsman appeared in wonderful touch but was bowled early in the evening when Harris produced a jaffa that nipped back to take the top of off stump.
New batsman Jonny Bairstow faced a couple of uncertain moments early on, while Pietersen, who had earlier gone more than two hours without a boundary, almost dragged a wide ball from Starc onto his stumps when he had 88.
Before too long, however, Pietersen was upper-cutting the same bowler over backward point to reach three figures for the first time in an Old Trafford Test.
Australia refused to wilt in the heat and gained further rewards in the final hour as Starc struck twice in quick succession.
The left-armer broke a useful stand of 52 when Bairstow was held at slip and claimed the big wicket of Pietersen with one that nipped back to strike the tall right-hander on the pad.
A review proved unsuccessful for Pietersen, meaning Stuart Broad was tasked with seeing out the remainder of the day with Matt Prior.
There were scares for both men as the ball nibbled around, but Australia could not find another breakthrough.
6:31pm - STUMPS - Eng 294/7; Prior 6, Broad 9 - The third day comes to an end with England still 34 shy of avoiding the follow-on. Pietersen’s century could well prove a valuable one with Australia needing victory in this match to have any chance of reclaiming the Ashes.
6:25pm - The ball has certainly nibbled around a bit more this evening and Prior is twice beaten by Harris in another runless over.
6:22pm - Graeme Swann claimed a first-innings five-for on this track and there is turn and bounce for Lyon as he sends down another maiden.
6:17pm - Lyon and Harris return to the attack. Another wicket this evening would make things rather nervy for England but Prior and Broad are holding firm.
6:08pm - Broad clips Starc fine for another four before the tireless Siddle beats Prior again.
5:59pm - Snicko suggests Pietersen may have got a thin edge to the ball that dismissed him, although the batsman certainly did not think he had hit it judging by his reaction. Back to the present action and Broad opens his account with a leg-side boundary off Starc before Prior collects his first four through third man.
5:53pm - WICKET! Pietersen lbw Starc 113; Eng 280/7 - Starc claims a huge breakthrough, nipping one back into Pietersen to trap the right-hander lbw. A review proves unsuccessful for England's centurion.
5:51pm - You cannot fail to be impressed by Siddle; full of energy and drive, he’s a captain’s dream. The seamer beats the edge of Prior, who has yet to settle.
5:36pm - There are plenty of catchers in place for new batsman Matt Prior. England need 51 to avoid the follow-on.
5:31pm - WICKET! Bairstow v Watson b Starc 22; Eng 277/6 - And now Bairstow falls, edging one angled across him to first slip.
5:27pm - A couple of moments of alarm for England as Starc cuts Bairstow in half with one that bounces and nips back appreciably before Pietersen inside-edges the impressive Watson just past the stumps for four.
5:18pm - Lyon, who has not really built on the threat he posed yesterday evening, comes in for further punishment as Bairstow thumps the ball back over the bowler’s head for four.
5:12pm - Drinks are taken with Australia’s lead down to 260. Pietersen was a touch fortunate to get away with a wild swipe at Watson in the last over that connected only with fresh air.
5:03pm - Shane Watson returns to the attack and is crashed through the covers by Pietersen, who has really knuckled down since passing 50. The next three deliveries beat the bat to keep England’s centurion on his toes.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 3, 2013
4:58pm - Bairstow only just clears the fielder at midwicket when playing a chip shot off Lyon. A much more convincing sweep takes the young Yorkshireman into double figures.
— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 3, 2013
4:46pm - CENTURY! Pietersen (165b 10x4 2x6) - Emirates Old Trafford rises to salute a fine hundred from Pietersen. He reached the milestone with an uppercut for four over backward point.
4:39pm - Pietersen almost drags a wide ball from Mitchell Starc onto his stumps, but is much more at ease when working Harris through midwicket to move into the nineties.
4:28pm - After playing and missing at a couple of deliveries, Bairstow gets off the mark with a leg-side single.
4:26pm - Pietersen, who now has Jonny Bairstow for company, has become England's leading run-scorer across all formats, surpassing Graham Gooch's tally of 13,190 international runs.
4:20pm - WICKET! Bell b Harris 60; Eng 225/5 - Where did that come from? Harris breaches Bell's defences and Australia have the breakthrough they so desperately desired.
4:19pm - Bell drives Ryan Harris to the rope at cover-point. The highlights reel of this knock will be worth watching, that’s for sure. Kevin Pietersen has been kept quiet since his early-afternoon assault on Nathan Lyon and is fortunate to get away with an edge through the slips off Siddle.
Ian Bell has now made a fifty in 8 of his last 9 #Ashes Tests
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 3, 2013
4:09pm - It is difficult to convey just how well Ian Bell is playing. A punch through backward point off Peter Siddle provides England’s first boundary after tea.
4:03pm - England begin the final session of day three requiring a further 117 to avoid the follow-on.
Highlights of an excellent afternoon session for England that saw Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell prosper
Kevin Pietersen shakes Ian Bell's hand after Bell reached his half century & they walk off for tea. Photo:Visionhaus pic.twitter.com/GoAQTRNSZU
— Investec Cricket (@InvestecCricket) August 3, 2013
3:44pm - TEA - Eng 211/4; Pietersen 78, Bell 51 - Bell is beaten by Siddle, but responds with a push through midwicket. That stroke brings up Bell’s fifty, from 93 balls with eight fours and a six, together with the century partnership. England will be delighted with their work in the afternoon session.
3:37pm - Starc is struggling with his line and gets punished for a half-volley as the assured Bell clips through square-leg to reach 48. Harris provides more of a threat in an over that sees Pietersen survive a half-hearted enquiry for lbw.
3:25pm - With a leg slip in place, Starc is clearly under orders to bowl straight. When he delivers a full-toss, Bell cashes in with an elegant push down the ground for four. England are 202 for four.
3:21pm - Now the new nut is called for. Starc will get first use of it from the Statham End.
3:18pm - Despite the returning Lyon and Smith posing little threat, Australia do not take the new ball straight away.
3:09pm - Steven Smith is called upon to bowl a couple of overs of leg-spin before the fresh cherry becomes available. He fails to land any of his first three deliveries.
3:03pm - This is a key period with the new ball looming. England’s progress has slowed but both batsmen continue to look comfortable. Bell goes to 38 with a glorious late cut off Starc.
2:47pm - Pietersen gets lucky. The first ball after drinks, from Watson, strikes the batsman on the pad as he advances. Australia choose not to review, but replays suggest they should have done so.
2:42pm - Drinks come on to the field at Emirates Old Trafford. England have progressed serenely since lunch but will be well aware they still have much to do.
Ordinarily rain is never good when we are playing but today it means at least we can watch @ECB_cricket in the Ashes....
— Somerset Cricket (@SomersetCCC) August 3, 2013
2:33pm - “Is there anything better than an Ian Bell cover drive?” asks Nasser Hussain in the Sky Sports commentary box as Starc is cracked to the fence. Not in my book Nasser! Oh hang on, maybe there is - the Ian Bell late cut. That stroke brings four more.
Starc comes on with 11 overs to go before the second new ball. Around the wicket to Bell. Two slips and a gully wait. 4-164 #Ashes
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) August 3, 2013
2:27pm - The withdrawal of Lyon has calmed things down. Harris completes a maiden and England are 164 for four as Mitchell Starc prepares for another spell.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 3, 2013
2:16pm - The impressive Siddle finds movement in and out to keep Bell honest. Michael Clarke decides to give Lyon a break; Ryan Harris returns at the Pavilion End.
2:09pm - Having been beaten by a brute of a ball from Siddle, Bell joins the six-hitting party by easing Lyon over long-off. Australia’s off-spinner is being put under big pressure here.
2:01pm - FIFTY! Pietersen (71b 6x4 2x6) - Ian Bell stands tall to cut Siddle through the covers for four and then picks up four more with a controlled edge down to third man. Pietersen is looking better and better; he comes down the pitch again to strike successive sixes over long-on and long-off. The second maximum brings up a 71-ball fifty.
Kevin Pietersen has now moved past Colin Cowdrey's tally of 7,624 runs to become the seventh highest England Test run-scorer #Ashes
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 3, 2013
1:55pm - Pietersen attacks Lyon again and comfortably clears mid-off to pick up his sixth four. He has now surpassed Colin Cowdrey in the list of England Test run-scorers.
1:47pm - Nathan Lyon continues from the Pavilion End and comes round the wicket to Kevin Pietersen, who shows his intentions by advancing to clip over midwicket for two.
1:40pm - The reliable figure of Peter Siddle is entrusted with the first over after lunch. This is a big session for England, who still require 209 to avoid the follow-on.
Highlights of the morning session on day three at Emirates Old Trafford
1:02pm - LUNCH - Eng 119/4 - Pietersen 33, Bell 4 - England avoid a further setback and will be hoping for a substantial partnership this afternoon. After a nervy start, Pietersen has displayed ominous form.
12:58pm - Ian Bell gets off the mark in typically stylish fashion with a glorious drive through cover. From Starc’s previous ball, there was an appeal for caught-behind from Brad Haddin, but nobody else. Lyon is back on for the final over of the session.
12:52pm - It may have been a good morning for Australia, but England will take heart from Pietersen’s form. A straight-driven four takes the Surrey man to 32 from 50 balls.
12:47pm - WICKET! Cook c Haddin b Starc 62; Eng 110/4 - Another pull from Pietersen yields two, although this one was not quite as cleanly struck. Starc then has Cook strangled down the leg side. That’s a huge wicket for Australia and it was quite a catch from Brad Haddin diving to his right.
12:41pm - Pietersen continues to show attacking intent, but is lucky to see a thick inside edge run safely down to fine-leg after he had danced down the track to Watson. Harris then replaces his fellow seamer as Clarke rings the changes in search of a fourth wicket.
Hundred up for England! Cook 56 Pietersen 25 & Eng 101-3 trail by 426
— Lancashire CCC (@LancsCCC) August 3, 2013
12:29pm - A maiden from Watson sets up another battle between Starc and Pietersen. The latter drives square for four to take England into three figures from the final ball of the 50th over.
12:21pm - If Pietersen looked nervy a few minutes ago, he appears fairly confident now! Successive short balls from Starc are met with crunching pulls through midwicket. A glance off the hip for two makes it 10 runs from three deliveries before the bowler responds with a full delivery that prompts a stifled lbw appeal. This is an excellent contest.
12:14pm - Shane Watson, who did not concede a run in the five overs he sent down yesterday, takes over from Lyon and is immediately clipped through leg for three by Cook. Watson's next ball brings five as Chris Rogers shies at the stumps and gives away four overthrows.
12:12pm - Cook survives an lbw appeal from Lyon thanks to an inside edge. Starc attempts to induce another false stroke by angling the ball across Pietersen from over the wicket, but the batsman is content to leave four deliveries in succession.
12:02pm - We have a double bowling change, with Mitchell Starc taking over from Siddle at the Statham End. Pietersen goes after another delivery outside off and again fails to connect. He has six to his name as drinks are taken with England 79 for three.
11:54am - You can’t bowl at Pietersen’s hips; when Siddle does, the tall right-hander collects four through fine-leg. Here comes Lyon.
11:47am - FIFTY! Cook (138b 7x4 0x6) - Cook draws warm applause from the crowd with a well-timed drive to the cover rope. Yet there are nervous gasps when Kevin Pietersen comes on strike for the first time and finds fresh air chasing a wide ball from Harris. Pietersen subsequently gets off the mark before a misfield at mid-off enables Cook to reach 50.
11:37am - WICKET! Trott c Clarke b Harris 5; Eng 64/3 - But now Trott has reason for concern. He nibbles at a length ball from Harris and edges to second slip where Australia's captain holds a fine low catch.
11:35am - As they did with Joe Root yesterday, Australia are doing a fine job of tying Trott down. England’s number three has five from 30 balls but is unlikely to be concerned as long as he remains at the crease.
11:27am - Trott works Siddle through square-leg from outside off to register his first runs of the morning. Cook, looking to pull, is then surprised when a short ball from Harris keeps a little low.
11:20am - Having beaten Trott, Siddle sends one past the edge of Cook. I wonder how long it will be until Michael Clarke turns (no pun intended) to Nathan Lyon? The off-spinner was a real threat on the second evening, although he may not find quite as much turn with a softer ball.
11:12am - The pace of the outfield is illustrated as Cook collects the opening boundary of the morning with an effortless push through midwicket. A quick single then takes the skipper to 41.
11:07am - Ryan Harris starts things off, conceding a solitary leg-bye in his opening over of the day. Peter Siddle, who claimed 2-7 from five overs yesterday evening, unsurprisingly opens up from the Statham End and Trott is beaten when pushing forward defensively.
10:58am - As you would expect, there is a terrific welcome for Cook and Trott. Here we go!
10:55am - Swann also stated he would like to put his feet up for all of day three. Let's see if England's batsmen can make that scenario a reality. We are moments away from the start of play.
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 3, 2013
10:41am - In his post-play press conference yesterday, Swann revealed Cook had been troubled by a stiff back as he progressed to 36 not out. However, the captain has netted as normal this morning and will be able to resume his innings alongside Trott.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 3, 2013
10:31am - It is clear England have a battle on their hands in Manchester. However, Graeme Swann was typically bullish when speaking to ecb.co.uk last night. He still believes victory is possible and has backed the home batsmen to make hay on a flat surface.
10:23am - Happily that shower has moved on swiftly. Barring any further rainfall, we will get under way at 11am. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott are the not-out batsmen for England and hopefully at least one of them can go on to a big score today.
10:15am - Morning everyone. Light rain is currently falling at Emirates Old Trafford but hopefully it will clear away quickly so we can start on time. England will begin day three of the third Investec Ashes Test on 52 for two in their first innings, 475 runs behind Australia.