Michael Clarke dragged Australia back into the Ashes series by hitting his 24th Test century against a lacklustre England on Thursday, taking the spotlight away from more umpiring controversy on the opening day of the third Test. The captain became the first Australian to make three figures this series as he reached stumps on 125 not out, with the tourists in command on 303-3 as they look for a victory to stay alive in the Ashes. Also read: Umpire strikes back
On a hot and humid day at Old Trafford, Australia’s batsmen finally found some form on a good wicket with opener Chris Rogers hitting a Test-best 84 and Steve Smith adding 70 in an unbeaten 174-run stand for the fourth wicket with Clarke.
“We have been under a lot of pressure and copped a lot of criticism,” Rogers said. “Today the pressure was off us a bit and we could play with a bit of freedom and things worked out much better for us.”
The steady flow of runs helped Australia overcome the dubious dismissal of Usman Khawaja, who was given out caught behind off Graeme Swann for one, despite replay technology showing the batsman hadn’t touched the ball.
Eng bowlers Struggle
Swann found some turn at a ground widely seen as a spinner’s paradise —Shane Warne produced the “Ball of the Century” here 20 years ago — to grab two wickets but England’s pace attack toiled and struggled with their footing. Stuart Broad limped off for six overs midway through the final session.
“We stuck to our task and it could have gone a couple of different ways today,” England bowler Tim Bresnan said. “With the chances we made it could have been six down. Hopefully we’ll get the rewards tomorrow.”
England are 2-0 ahead in the five-match series and need a draw or victory to keep hold of the urn. That might not be so straightforward on this evidence, and the hosts are on the defensive for the first time this series.
Clarke has been the captain of a sinking ship this summer and his own form has dipped as a