Ashes 2015: England lead series after Ian Bell seals Edgbaston win

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at Edgbaston
Ian Bell walks off ahead of Joe Root and the Australia team
Ian Bell (left) hit his third fifty of the series to guide England to victory
Third Test, day three, Edgbaston:
Australia 136 & 265: Warner 77, Nevill 59, Finn 6-79
England 281 & 124-2: Bell 65 not out, Root 38 not out
England won by eight wickets; lead series 2-1

England completed a crushing eight-wicket victory over Australia to take a 2-1 Ashes series lead at a jubilant Edgbaston.

Ian Bell led the way with 65 not out and Joe Root chipped in with an unbeaten 38 as the hosts chased down 121 in 32.1 overs to win with ease on the afternoon of the third day.

Australia's last three wickets had added 97 runs as they were bowled out for 265 to leave England a testing target, with Steven Finn completing a Test-best 6-79.

But the hosts overcame the early loss of captain Alastair Cook for seven to clinch the victory that moves them within one win of claiming back the Ashes urn.

Misery to mastery

Michael Clarke reacts after dropping Ian Bell
Michael Clarke dropped Ian Bell with the Warwickshire batsman on 20

England's three-day victory capped an incredible turnaround since their 405-run hammering in the second Test at Lord's.

And for Bell, half-centuries in both innings on his home ground were a fitting retort to those who were calling for him to dropped after a run of low scores.

The Warwickshire batsman had cracked five boundaries from his first eight balls from Mitchell Starc when he offered his only chance.

An edge off the left-arm bowler flew towards second slip where beleaguered Australia captain Michael Clarke dropped a routine catch.

Starc had earlier bowled Cook with a fast, full away-swinger before Josh Hazlewood upped the pressure on out-of-form opener Adam Lyth by pinning him lbw for 12.

More on England's win
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Ashes rollercoaster is compulsive viewing - Agnew
Eight areas to decide the Ashes
Clarke says Australia are "playing with 10 men"
Finn: I doubted I'd play Tests again

Songs and cheers

From 51-2, Root dispelled fears of a wobble by cutting his first ball for four and England hardly looked back.

As the tea interval was delayed, Australia resorted to bowling wide outside off stump in an attempt to induce errors by preying on England's impatience.

But with a sell-out crowd of 24,500 singing songs and cheering every run, Bell and Root calmly closed in on the target.

After Bell's single had levelled the scores and brought in the field, Root flicked the winning runs through a gap on the leg side before leaping into the air with fists clenched and engulfing his batting partner in a bear hug.

Australia's tail wags

Mitchell Starc bats
Australia bowler Mitchell Starc hit his fifth Test fifty to give the tourists some hope

England's day had begun with the deflating news that James Anderson's side strain will rule him out of next week's fourth Test at Trent Bridge, and the home crowd's mood remained subdued as Peter Nevill and Starc lashed five boundaries in the first four overs of play.

Nevill should have been out for 53, brilliantly caught down the leg side by Jos Buttler, but England's lack of remaining reviews cost Stuart Broad what would have been his 300th Test wicket.

Nevill's next swish at a leg-side delivery brought his downfall as a thin edge was expertly taken by Buttler to give Finn, who enjoyed a fine match on his return to the side after a two-year absence, his sixth wicket.

The ninth wicket added another 28 runs as Starc, with some lusty cover drives, passed fifty for the fifth time in Tests. But a superb diving slip catch by Root accounted for Hazlewood and gave Ben Stokes his first wicket since the first innings of the Cardiff Test.

Nathan Lyon helped add 20 for the final wicket before Starc chipped Moeen Ali to extra cover to bring roars of relief from England's supporters.

From then on, the volume was rarely below maximum as the crowd cheered England to a glorious Ashes win.

So what happens next?

The fourth Test starts next Thursday at Trent Bridge - and England will be without James Anderson.

With a 2-1 lead, victory in Nottingham would see England regain the Ashes irrespective of the outcome of the fifth Test at the Oval on 20 August.

A victory for Australia next week would mean that, with the series level at 2-2, the tourists could retain the Ashes just by drawing the final Test. Ashes tradition states that in the event of a drawn series, the holders retain the urn.

Ian Bell and Joe Root
Bell and Root saw England home after they lost the openers

What they said

England captain Alastair Cook: "The Edgbaston atmosphere is unique and it was as loud as I can ever remember it. The way Jimmy [Anderson] bowled in that first innings was fantastic, but I don't think it was a 140-all out pitch.

"It's been an amazing comeback from Steven Finn. Standing there at slip, you thought he was going to get a nick every ball. The character he has shown to come back after a lot of hard work is incredible."

Australia captain Michael Clarke: "It's very hard to explain. Credit has to go to England, they bowled well on day one and we didn't bat anywhere near we'd have liked. I still would have batted first, you can see the wicket has deteriorated.

"It swung and seamed throughout the whole game. We probably had the best batting conditions, we just didn't execute with bat and ball."

England bowler Steven Finn: "This week has been fantastic and I'm thoroughly enjoying Test cricket again. There were a few nerves in the first few balls and you question yourself but after that it was focusing on getting people out.

"It is as nice a feeling as I have ever had taking a wicket [dismissing Steve Smith in the first innings]. It is the most I have ever celebrated a wicket. I did doubt at times if I'd play again but knew I could be good enough again. To be stood here now, there is no better feeling."

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott on BBC Test Match Special
"It was amazing how England came back [from defeat at Lord's]. Michael Clarke must go away with his team and worry that if the pitch at Trent Bridge is one that moves they will struggle again.
"They have struggled against the moving ball. They have been pathetic. They didn't graft and didn't work. If they play like they did here again, the Ashes are gone. They have to adapt to the situation."

Stats of the day

  • This was the first Ashes Test to feature no centuries since the Sydney Test in January 2007.
  • England have now recorded a sequence in their last seven Tests of win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win - the first time this has ever happened in Test history.
  • James Anderson and Steven Finn are the first pair of England bowlers to take six-wicket hauls in an Ashes Test since Ian Botham and Bob Willis in the Headingley Test of 1981.
  • Nathan Lyon's batting average of 22.3 is the highest of any number 11 with more than 150 Test runs.
Michael Clarke stats graphic

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