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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Trott and Alastai Cook
Trott (left) constantly offered encouragement as Cook neared three figures

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

In all my years of covering England, I have seen them roll over in numerous Test matches in a similar situation over the years - but I could never have envisaged the scenario that England find themselves in on Sunday evening.

I wrote in my column on Saturday that the best case scenario would have been England ending about 300-4 with an 80-odd run lead on Sunday evening.

Well, they have an 80-run lead - 88 to be precise - but to lose only one wicket is quite phenomenal - it's difficult to describe just what a wonderful batting performance this was by England's top three.

England were adequately compensated with large slices of luck which had deserted them on Saturday as all three batsmen profited from missed chances.

But what struck me was how each batsman played quite different innings.

Andrew Strauss was the most positive out of the three, taking more of a risk with his strokeplay while Alastair Cook batted with concentration and determination and Trott was equally assured, putting aside his sketchy first-innings display with resolute defence.

There were one or two play-and-misses in the morning session, but that's only natural as the last vestiges of shine and hardness wore off the ball.

Seeing Strauss bring up his 100 was my moment of the day, I knew just how distraught he was after his three-ball dismissal in the first innings.

Ricky Ponting's field placings were conservative, even when Australia took the second new ball


The England captain was absolutely furious when he was eventually dismissed, out stumped for the first time in his Test career, slamming his bat against his pad in frustration after toiling away so admirably.

As for Cook, I can't think of a better innings he has played for England - and for someone of his age, he really does have an astonishing record.

At just under 26, he has 14 Test hundreds - that's up there with the great Sir Garfield Sobers, which goes to show what august company he is in.

He moved his feet beautifully towards the ball's pitch, playing with authority and confidence on both sides of the wicket.

What impressed me about Trott's innings was the way he kept Cook motivated, urging him on and offering encouragement at every opportunity during their 121-run stand.

All three batsmen were abetted by Australia's bowlers, who could not conjure a really testing spell of pressure, offering too many four-balls at the wrong time.

However, a word of caution - only one team can win this match, and that is Australia. It only takes a few quick wickets for panic to set in and England know they have at least a session-and-a-half still to bat before they can start thinking about drawing the match and turning attentions towards Adelaide.

The hosts looked devoid of inspiration throughout most of the day's play, a very, very different picture from the team that won here so convincingly four years ago.

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If England can accumulate a lead of about 250 to 280 and declare around tea, it would leave Australia an uncomfortable 90 minutes or so in a session that has no relevance with the draw secured.

A few early wickets can have a significant psychological impact going into the Adelaide Oval next Friday, sending the hosts a real message of intent.

Australia's biggest concern is the form of Mitchell Johnson and the composition of their pace attack for Adelaide.

As Australia's main strike bowler - remember how Johnson said he was going to target Strauss in the build-up to the series - he has had an awful Test match; no wickets, dropping Strauss on 69 and a first-innings duck.

His first spell on Sunday morning was not too bad, bowling with pace and aggression, but he bowled too many many four-balls which England gratefully dispatched.

Doug Bollinger is a ready-made replacement, but dropping Johnson on the strength of one Test is a little naive.

If the Australian selectors take a risk, they could play left-arm seamer Bollinger as part of a five-man bowling attack with Brad Haddin batting at six, but I seriously doubt they would adopt this tactic so early in the series.

Ricky Ponting's field placings were conservative too, even when they took the second new ball, which shows his confidence in his main strike bowlers is not as high as it should be.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport's Pranav Soneji

Listen to the day three Test Match Special podcast right here.



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