Australia took a firm hold of the third, and what could be, the decisive test of the 2013 Ashes Series as Michael Clarke hit an unbeaten 125, with Australia finishing the day on 303-3.
England came into the match at Old Trafford with a 2-0 lead, after wins at Trent Bridge and Lord’s in July. England were unchanged from the last test, which they won by 347 runs and Australia made three changes, with Warner, Starc and Lyon for Hughes, Pattinson and Agar.
Australia started the brightest, after winning the toss and electing to bat on a scorching day in Manchester. The ever-reliable James Anderson was off-line and Broad was off-length as openers Shane Watson and Chris Rogers put on 76 for the first wicket.
England then looked to break through once more, and they did, albeit controversially, as Usman Khawaja was given out caught-behind, although TV replays would suggest the Australian left-hander was unlucky in the decision.
With that wicket, came Australia captain Michael Clarke, who alongside Chris Rogers looked to build a big first innings score. He took a liking to the spin of Graeme Swann, who has taken the most scalps during this year’s Ashes Series with 13 victims and looked to hit him down the ground on numerous occasions.
Clarke brought up his fifty with a pull, off Bresnan that went to the boundary. Once Rogers, who shouldn’t go unnoticed with 84 for himself, off just 114 balls before being out LBW to Graeme Swann, departed – England looked like they could get on top and impose on the weak Australia team.
However, it was Clarke who took all the headlines, who brought up his hundred with a flick off the legs and the first for an Australian in this series. The captain took a firm control of the game, and will look to push on tomorrow morning with a good total on the scoreboard, and plenty of first innings wickets in hand.
Australia then pushed on in the evening session and with the fourth-wicket partnership on 168, Clarke brought up the 300 with a single. Steve Smith deserves a special mention too, digging in at the other end for Australia, and scored an unbeaten 70.
Australia look set for a big first innings total, but you could suggest that if they score 500 by tomorrow, if the pitch stays flat and England match that, they will be able to obtain the draw they need to retain the Ashes, and take the fire out of the Australians, knowing they can’t come back. It will be impressive if they do manage to win this, on such a flat deck, but we will find out tomorrow, as play resumes at 11AM GMT with Australia resuming on 302-3.
Scoreboard: Australia 303-3 (Clarke 125*(208) Rogers 84(114) – Swann 2/82 Bresnan 1/53)
Player of Day 1: Michael Clarke. He scored an excellent 125 and put Australia on the front foot.
Disappointment of Day 1: Usman Khawaja. Hard to fault any English bowler, as they did well in the heat, and on a flat surface, unfortunately Usman just doesn’t cut it at international level.