Cook’s poor series with the bat continued when he edged ryan Harris  to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
London, 23 August 
Ian Bell was left holding the fort for England yet again as they struggled for runs on the third day of the final Ashes Test against Australia at The Oval today.
England, who at 3-0 up had already won the five-match series, were 247 for four at stumps, still 245 runs behind Australia’s first innings 492 for nine declared but needing just 46 more runs to avoid the follow-on.
Bell, who came into this match having scored exactly 500 runs in the series with three hundreds, was 29 not out off 110 balls in nearly two-and-a-half hours at the crease. Meanwhile Test debutant Chris Woakes, Bell’s Warwickshire team-mate, was 15 not out following a final session played under gloomy skies despite the glare of the floodlights.
Several England batsmen got in but failed to press on, with Kevin Pietersen making an unusually restrained 50 in 133 balls. England scored 215 runs in the day’s 98.3 overs, the run-rate rarely rising above two an over, in a match where victory would mean they had won four Tests in a home Ashes for the first time. But there was still something to be gained for England by denying their arch-rivals a consolation success — Australia’s last ‘winless’ Ashes was in 1977 — ahead of the return series ‘Down Under’ starting in November. England resumed today on 32 without loss after Shane Watson’s Test-best 176 and Steven Smith’s 138 not out — his maiden hundred at this level — had taken Australia to an imposing total.
Alastair Cook, the England captain, was 17 not out and Joe Root 13 not out.
The openers made a solid start, with Root clipping Ryan Harris off his legs for four while left-hander Cook square-drove the fast bowler for a boundary.
But Cook’s poor series with the bat continued when he followed a delivery angled across him from Harris and edged to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for 25. It was an all-too familiar exit for Cook in a series where he has scored 243 runs in nine innings with a best of 62.