Ashes 2013: Ian Bell century gives England edge in fourth Test
|Fourth Investec Test, Emirates Durham ICG (day three):|
|England 238 & 234-5 v Australia 270|
Ian Bell's third century of the Ashes series gave England the edge over Australia after three days of an engrossing fourth Test.
The Warwickshire batsman scored an invaluable 105 not out as the hosts fought back from 49-3 in their second innings to 234-5 at the close, a lead of 202.
Bell, whose hundreds in wins at Trent Bridge and Lord's helped England retain the Ashes in 14 days, shared partnerships of 106 with Kevin Pietersen (44) and 66 with Jonny Bairstow (28) as England gradually wrested control from the tourists.
He brought up his 20th Test century five minutes before the close to become only the third Englishman after Maurice Leyland in 1934 and David Gower in 1985 to score three in a home Ashes campaign.
Bell's achievement capped an impressive day for England, who claimed Australia's last five wickets for 48 runs to bowl them out for 270 and restrict their first-innings lead to 32.
But when Ryan Harris accounted for Joe Root, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott in quick succession with the new ball, Australia were back on top.
With England's advantage a slender 17, Bell and Pietersen set about repairing the damage in a crucial fourth-wicket stand that spanned 33 overs.
Finding gaps in the field that had eluded England in their often turgid first-innings 238, they worked the ball around and punished anything off line.
Pietersen struck Peter Siddle's last two balls before tea for four, while Bell caressed Harris for successive cover drives to bring up his fifty soon after the interval.
Starved of the strike and subdued by spinner Nathan Lyon, Pietersen allowed frustration to affect his shot selection and was caught at cover via a leading edge to once again open the door to Australia.
But with Bairstow finding his touch to crash Lyon over the top for successive fours and Bell moving masterfully towards his fourth Ashes century in five Tests, England maintained their ascendancy.
Runs came more freely in the evening session as England took advantage of an Australia attack deprived of the services of Shane Watson, who limped off with a groin strain.
Although Bairstow edged Lyon behind to fall shortly before the close, Bell ensured England finished the day in a strong position from which to push for a 3-0 lead in the series.
Australia started Sunday only 16 behind England's first-innings total of 238, but were soon put on the back foot as Graeme Swann removed both overnight batsmen.
Brad Haddin was lbw for 13 to a ball that straightened and Chris Rogers was athletically taken by Matt Prior for 110, the wicketkeeper running forward and diving to take a one-handed catch after the ball looped off pad and glove.
James Anderson collected his first wickets of the innings by snaring Peter Siddle and Lyon with the new ball before Stuart Broad ended a feisty innings of 28 from Harris when he arrowed a ball into the tailender's pads.
Umpire Tony Hill, who has made several errors during the series, gave Harris not out, but when the first replay confirmed the ball was heading for middle stump, Harris and the England players began walking towards the pavilion.
That left the unfortunate Hill isolated in the middle as he waited for the inevitable instruction from the third umpire to overturn his own call.
Root's unconvincing start to life as an England opener continued as he was bowled by a wonderful delivery from Harris that seamed away to hit off stump.
After scoring a laboured 51 from 164 balls in the first innings, Cook adopted a more aggressive approach second time round as he crashed three early fours.
But his determination to be positive brought about his downfall as he flashed at an away-swinger from Harris and was caught behind by Haddin.
Trott's innings took an almost identical course as he cruised to 23, only to be surprised by a Harris bouncer, which he flicked through to the wicketkeeper.
At that stage, a rampant Australia sensed victory, but, not for the first time in the series, Bell took a different view.