Nottingham: England were on the brink of winning the first Test against Australia after more umpiring controversy dogged the Ashes series opener at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Australia were 174 for six at stumps on the fourth day, still needing a further 137 runs to reach their victory target of 311 after they lost three wickets for three runs late in the day.
No side has made more to win in the fourth innings of a Trent Bridge Test than England’s 284 for six against New Zealand in 2004.
But the fact teenage debutant Ashton Agar, who in Australia’s first innings made 98, the highest score by a Test No 11, was still there was a warning to Ashes-holders England they had work left to do if they were to go 1-0 up in this five-match series.
Brad Haddin was 11 not out and Agar, promoted to No 8, one not out.
England captured the prize scalp of Australia captain Michael Clarke when Stuart Broad, himself at the centre of an umpiring row on Friday, had the tourists’ best batsman caught behind by wicketkeeper Matt Prior for 23 off an excellent full-length delivery.
Pakistan’s Aleem Dar, the bowler’s end umpire, checked with square leg colleague Kumar Dharmasena to see if the ball had carried.
However, the Sri Lankan was unable to give that confirmation and the on-field duo referred the decision to third umpire Marais Erasmus.
Replays showed clearly that Prior had taken a clean catch and Clarke was given out by Dar. But the batsman immediately challenged the decision.
Again the verdict was passed to South Africa’s Erasmus and, with Hot Spot technology showing the ball had nicked the bat, Dar once more raised his finger to spark a slump that saw Australia decline from 161 for three to 164 for six in the space of 18 balls.
Australia had now used up all their reviews and next ball Steven Smith was lbw to Graeme Swann as the off-spinner, like Broad bowling on his Nottinghamshire home ground, extracted sharp turn.
Left-hander Phil Hughes, playing back to another sharply spun Swann delivery, was initially given not out on nought by Dharmasena.
This time England challenged the call and, with the Decision Review System showing the ball had just pitched in line before striking the batsman plumb in front of his stumps on the back leg, Hughes was out for a duck to the raucous delight of most of a 17,000 capacity sun-drenched crowd.
Australia had frustrated England before opener Shane Watson was lbw to a Broad inswinger for 46.
Watson challenged the verdict but had to go after DRS showed the ball clipping leg stump. That meant the all-rounder wouldn’t be adding to his meagre tally of two centuries in what was now his 42nd Test.
Then to what became the last ball before tea, Ed Cowan edged part-time spinner Joe Root to Jonathan Trott at slip.
Before tea Chris Rogers, playing his second Test five years after his debut, completed a maiden Test fifty off 104 balls with eight fours.
But soon after tea, Rogers tamely chipped James Anderson to Ian Bell at midwicket.
Earlier, Bell’s 109 had been the cornerstone of England’s second innings 375.
Bell, 95 not out overnight, shared a seventh-wicket partnership of 138 with Broad (65).
All-rounder Broad was controversially given not out on 37 on Friday despite edging Agar to Clarke at slip, a decision Australia couldn’t challenge as by then they’d used up both their innings reviews.
Bell has been often accused of not scoring runs when England most needed them but this was arguably the most valuable innings of his Test career
Broad was eventually out for 65 when caught behind off James Pattinson.
This time Broad ‘walked’ before Bell’s near six-and-a-half hour innings, including 15 boundaries, ended when he too was caught behind, this time off Mitchell Starc.
Scoreboard at stumps on the fourth day of the first Ashes Test between England and Australia at Trent Bridge on Saturday:
England 1st Innings 215 (P Siddle 5-50; J Pattinson 3-69)
Australia 1st Innings 280 (A Agar 98, P Hughes 81 no, S Smith 53; J Anderson 5-85)
England 2nd Innings (overnight: 326-6)
A. Cook c Clarke b Agar 50
J. Root c Haddin b Starc 5
J. Trott lbw b Starc 0
K. Pietersen b Pattinson 64
I. Bell c Haddin b Starc 109
J. Bairstow c Haddin b Agar 15
M. Prior c Cowan b Siddle 31
S. Broad c Haddin b Pattinson 65
G. Swann c Clarke b Siddle 9
S. Finn not out 2
J. Anderson c Hughes b Siddle 0
Extras (b2, lb13, w1, nb9) 25
Total (all out, 149.5 overs, 660 mins) 375
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Root), 2-11 (Trott), 3-121 (Pietersen), 4-131 (Cook), 5-176 (Bairstow), 6-218 (Prior), 7-356 (Broad), 8-371 (Bell), 9-375 (Swann), 10-375 (Anderson)
Bowling: Pattinson 34-8-101-2 (1nb); Starc 32-7-81-3 (5nb, 1w); Agar 35-9-82-2 (1nb); Siddle 33.5-12-85-3 (2nb); Watson 15-11-11-0
Australia 2nd Innings
S. Watson lbw b Broad 46
C. Rogers c Bell b Anderson 52
E. Cowan c Trott b Root 14
M. Clarke c Prior b Broad 23
S. Smith lbw b Swann 17
P. Hughes lbw b Swann 0
B. Haddin not out 11
A. Agar not out 1
Extras (lb9, nb1) 10
Total (6 wkts, 71 overs, 303 mins) 174
Fall of wickets: 1-84 (Watson), 2-111 (Cowan), 3-124 (Rogers), 4-161 (Clarke), 5-161 (Smith), 6-164 (Hughes)
To bat: P Siddle, M Starc, J Pattinson
Bowling: Anderson 17-4-44-1; Broad 16-5-34-2 (1nb); Swann 28-5-64-2; Finn 8-3-17-0; Root 2-0-6-1
Match position: Australia need 137 more runs to reach their victory target of 311 with four second innings wickets standing.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Kumar Dharmasena (SRI)
TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)