Ashes - Bell and Cook tons put England in control
Commanding centuries from Alastair Cook and Ian Bell on day three of the final Test in Sydney put England on course to win the Ashes outright in Australia for the first time in 24 years.
Cook's imperious 189 saw him move second in England's all-time list of record run-scorers - behind only Wally Hammond, more than 80 years ago - in an Ashes series as England assumed a 208-run lead with 488 for seven on the board at stumps.
The left-hander's tally of 765 compares with more than 1,000 in his 15 first-class innings on this tour, while Bell scored his first century in 18 Test matches against Australia with a sparkling 115 as England ground their hosts into the dust on a day of supreme dominance.
Incredibly, in an era when there are few tour matches, Cook also passed 1000 first-class runs for the trip and has now also spent longer at the crease in a series than any other England player.
The tourists are looking to become the first English team to win the Ashes outright in Australia for 24 years and, having bowled the hosts out for 280 in their first innings, the platform was set.
There was a major reprieve for Cook while on 99, in a passage of play which prompted flashbacks of a similar incident during his match-saving 235 not out in the first Test at The Gabba.
Phil Hughes claimed a catch at short-leg and initially appeared to get his hands underneath the ball as Michael Beer celebrated what would have been his first Test wicket, but Cook survived courtesy of the TV umpire's ruling that the ball had bounced agonisingly short.
But the slow left-armer, who is making his Test debut at the SCG, did not have to wait much longer for his belated maiden scalp as the out-of-nick Paul Collingwood holed out to Ben Hilfenhaus at mid on, who took a steepling catch.
Cook's 16th Test century was already on the board, yet after the earlier loss of nightwatchman James Anderson, bowled off-stump playing up the wrong line to Peter Siddle, plenty was required from England's sixth-wicket pair to ensure the tourists consolidated their advantage.
The left-handed opener eventually fell, edging to Mike Hussey at gully off the bowling of Shane Watson, after having posted 766 for the series and become England's third-highest runscorer in any Ashes campaign, home or away.
Ian Bell, who added 154 for the sixth wicket with Cook, then kicked on in partnership with Matt Prior, unfurling an array of blistering strokes to cruise past his half-century in brisk fashion.
There was another moment of controversy as umpire Aleem Dar gave Bell out caught behind for 67 off the bowling of Watson, only for the TV umpire Tony Hill to overrule the decision upon review with further evidence suggesting that the initial call was in fact correct.
The Australia players and supporters felt aggrieved at Bell's reprieve, but the Warwickshire man continued undeterred and reached an emotional century with a crisp back-foot drive off the bowling of Steve Smith. The landmark was greeted with a mixture of boos and applause, but few could deny that it was a thoroughly deserved century from the elegant middle-order batsman.
Prior, meanwhile, played his shots with freedom and bristling confidence to steer England to the close with an unbeaten 54 alongside Tim Bresnan as bad light brought an abrupt end to the day, and the onus will be on the wicketkeeper to lead the charge and add further quick runs to the tourists' burgeoning lead early on the fourth day.
Andrew Strauss's side are firmly in the ascendancy at the SCG and, with a commanding lead already on the board, the odds are firmly on England clinching a 3-1 series victory to cap a quite magnificent tour Down Under.
Day three timeline (All times UK):
23:22 - England 181-4 (54 overs) - Siddle gets a full inswinging delivery to zip through Anderson's gate and demolish the stumps.
00:15 - England 214-4 (65 overs) - Hughes claims a catch at short leg as Beer thinks he has dismissed Cook, but the review shows the ball to have bounced short.
00:22 - England 222-4 (67 overs) - Cook reaches his third century of the series with a flick through midwicket for a single off the bowling of Beer.
00:32 - England 226-5 (69 overs) - Collingwood skips down the track and skies an attempted lofted drive off Beer to Hilfenhaus, who takes the catch.
01:37 - England 277-5 (83 overs) - LUNCH
02:52 - England 311-5 (92 overs) - Cook brings up his 'daddy ton' with a drive wide of mid on for two runs off the bowling of Johnson to pass 150.
03:43 - England 353-5 (104 overs) - Bell shimmies down the track and bludgeons a straight drive for four off Smith to bring up his half-century.
04:07 - England 376-5 (112 overs) - Cook takes a single to midwicket off the bowling of Hussey to bring up the 150 partnership between himself and Bell.
04:15 - England 378-5 (113 overs) - TEA
04:42 - England 380-6 (116 overs) - Cook flails the bat at a wide delivery from Watson and edges behind to Hussey in the gully as he falls for 189.
04:53 - England 385-6 (118 overs) - Bell is given out caught behind off the bowling of Watson, but he has the decision overturned by the TV umpire.
05:59 - England 463-6 (133 overs) - Bell reaches his first century against Australia with a crisp back-foot drive through point off the bowling of Smith.
06:29 - England 487-7 (140 overs) - Johnson gets a full delivery to nip away from Bell, who edges behind to slip where Clarke takes the catch.
06:33 - England 488-7 (141 overs) - STUMPS (bad light)