By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Australia spinner Nathan Lyon grabbed two middle order wickets but Alastair Cook extended his innings past the 150 mark to push England to 360 for six and a 33-run lead at tea on day three of the fourth Ashes test on Thursday.
Lyon removed wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow for 22 and all-rounder Moeen Ali for 20 before Cook combined with Chris Woakes in an 53-run stand to steady England on a steamy day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Cook was 173 not out, having moved past Shivnarine Chanderpaul to seventh on the all-time test runs list, with Woakes on 26 at the break.
England resumed on 264 for four after lunch, but Cook and Bairstow added only 15 more runs before the wicketkeeper nicked behind when attempting an ungainly heave at Lyon.
Still 48 runs adrift of Australia’s first innings 327, the tourists might have opted for some more judicious batting but Moeen Ali came out swinging and was very nearly sent back off on the fourth ball he faced when he slogged Lyon over his head.
Pat Cummins, the fielder in the deep, misjudged the flight of the ball as he backpedalled toward the long-off rope and what could well have been a catch ended up a six.
Unbowed, Moeen hammered Lyon through the covers for four on the next ball but was out in the spinner’s next over when he drove in the air to short cover where Shaun Marsh leapt to pull down a fine catch.
Having dismissed Moeen for the sixth time in the series, Lyon gave the all-rounder a generous verbal spray as he trudged off.
Cook also opened his shoulders and pulled Cummins for his 19th boundary to bring up his 150th run.
Moments later, he was nearly caught for 153 at square leg trying another pull-shot at the same bowler.
Smith, who dropped Cook at slip on day two when he was on 66, put down the tough, one-handed chance.
Woakes was also lucky to cling to his wicket, edging through the slips cordon twice in the final overs of the session.
Paceman Cummins made the early breakthrough, ending a 138-run partnership between Cook and Joe Root.
Dismissed for 51 in Brisbane and 67 in Adelaide, Root squandered another promising start by miscuing a pull shot straight to Lyon at deep square leg for 61.
Dawid Malan also threw away his wicket for 14 when he failed to review an lbw decision despite hitting the ball from seamer Josh Hazlewood.
As Malan trudged off the ground, ‘snicko’, ‘hot-spot’ and the video replay all showed an inside edge off the bat before it struck his pads.
It was the second England wicket to fall lbw with a nick in the innings, with number three James Vince failing to review his dismissal on day two.
Australia regained the Ashes with victory in the third test in Perth and hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series. (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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