Cricket Expert & Columnist
Ashes: Ian Bell wins plaudits from Nasser Hussain for 105 not out
Nasser Hussain applauded Ian Bell's vital ton as England moved into a commanding position on day three.
Last Updated: 11/08/13 8:30pm
England's bowlers had performed superbly in the morning session to take five Australian wickets for 50 runs and restrict their visitors to a 34 run advantage after the first innings.
But the hosts found themselves in trouble at 49-3 before Bell crafted another fine ton - his third of this series - to steer his side to 234-5 at stumps, a lead of 202.
The Warwickshire ace was 105 not out at the close after combining well with Kevin Pietersen (44) and Jonny Bairstow (28), but will return to the crease on Monday morning alongside Tim Bresnan, determined to propel England towards 300 ahead and a real position of strength.
"England have had a really good day," said Sky Cricket expert Hussain.
"They've come in, bowled Australia out when everyone was presuming - and Australia were hoping - they'd get a lead of about 100. They didn't get that and England's bowlers set it up for them today.
"Then Ian Bell delivered yet again. There's that myth that people used to say about Bell only getting runs when others get runs ahead of him - well Bell has got runs in this series when no one else really has.
"We all know he's very strong through the offside and there have been a number of cover drives but he's got the back cut going well, too.
"He put the big shot down the ground away after being caught in the first innings and produced a very controlled, very disciplined innings and was very pleasing on the eye, as he always is."
Andrew Strauss, however, was critical of England's openers, who once again failed to see off the new ball on Saturday.
Besides Joe Root's 180 at Lord's and three Alastair Cook half-centuries, England's first pairing have struggled to accumulate and survive against the Australia attack and their respective two and 22 on Saturday once again exposed the middle order.
"The opening partnership is such an important one for setting the platform for the middle order to come in and play more free and expressive manner," he told Sky Sports News.
"Both sides have struggled at the top of the order. We saw Chris Rogers score a good hundred for Australia yesterday but Cook and Root have both had to graft their way through.
"For the first time in Joe Root's career there are some questions about his technique and he's going to have to think about how he plays Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.
"Alastair Cook, meanwhile, has battled hard but his dismissal today was a very uncharacteristic shot from him and shows he's searching for the ball a little bit at the moment."
However, fortunately for the hosts, a composed and impressive Kevin Pietersen and in-form Bell came to England's rescue after Jonathan Trott (23) had followed Root and Cook back to the dressing room.
Sir Ian Botham credited the pair for salvaging England's hopes of victory - and reckons Bell and Bresnan can press on tomorrow to put Australia under real pressure in the fourth innings.
"Kevin Pietersen's partnership with Bell was crucial," he said .
"That steadied the ship when we were all over the place. The Aussies were bouncing around with Root, Cook and Trott out and England had to stop the rot.
"KP played well and I think Bairstow also played better today; he was much more confident and playing his shots - and I'd much rather see him playing like that than he did in the first innings.
"In terms of tomorrow, they are saying there will be some weather around in the afternoon but England are in the ascendancy and they don't have to worry about that - they'll just go out and bat as long as they can.
"If they get to 300 I think they'll feel pretty good and if they get above that they'll be very happy, considering where they were at one stage."