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Captain Clarke leads by example

By Chris Devine at Emirates Old Trafford and Matthew Sherry

Michael Clarke capitalised on winning the toss in the third Investec Ashes Test with arguably his most important hundred.

Leading from the front at a time of need with his side 2-0 down in the five-match series, Australia captain Clarke contributed 125 not out to a score of 303 for three after calling correctly at Emirates Old Trafford.

Clarke’s fine innings was complemented by Steven Smith’s unbeaten 70 and an attacking 84 from opener Chris Rogers.

The tourists appeared to have ceded the initiative when Rogers became a second victim for Graeme Swann, but Clarke and Smith duly prospered on a typical Manchester surface offering pace, bounce and turn.

Their unbroken fourth-wicket alliance – worth 174 at stumps - merited particular praise given the pressure on Australia’s batsmen in the wake of their crushing 347-run defeat at Lord’s.

While Smith enjoyed good fortune on occasion, surviving two England reviews and a huge lbw appeal from the luckless Stuart Broad, Clarke delivered a display of high class.

Exhibiting a keenness to use his feet against the dangerous Swann and the ability to leave well against seam, the 32-year-old took charge following Rogers’ exit and showed understandable delight upon bringing up his 24th five-day hundred.

Clarke’s substantial stand with Smith ensured David Warner, who replaced Phil Hughes in one of three changes to Australia’s team, was not required to bat.

Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were also recalled by Australia, while England fielded an unchanged line-up after Kevin Pietersen was passed fit following a calf strain.

Strong off the front foot on either side of the wicket, but particularly through cover, Rogers was solely responsible for ensuring Australia started the game in positive fashion.

His second Test half-century arrived from just 49 deliveries and contained 10 fours.

However, the left-hander’s fluent initial progress was in sharp contrast to opening partner Shane Watson, who laboured to 19 before being held at first slip off Tim Bresnan.

Rogers initially went into his shell following Watson’s departure, which came with 76 runs on the board, and only six had been added when Usman Khawaja was caught behind off Swann.

Having been beaten by sharp turn and bounce, Khawaja called for a review but umpire Tony Hill’s initial decision was upheld.

England appeared to be seizing control when Swann struck again in mid-afternoon. Perhaps distracted by movement behind the bowler’s arm moments earlier, Rogers missed a full ball when attempting to work to leg and was adjudged lbw.

Clarke had been unable to make much of an impact prior to Rogers’ departure, but soon exhibited greater confidence in the company of Smith.

The battle between Australia’s captain and Swann proved particularly absorbing as Clarke counter-attacked against the turning ball.

Smith also showed a desire to play his strokes after enduring appeals for lbw and caught behind that prompted unsuccessful England reviews, although he was fortunate not to fall for 24.

Broad rapped the batting all-rounder plumb in front, yet umpire Tony Hill remained unmoved and a challenge could not be requested following Smith’s earlier reprieves.

That incident summed up a day of misfortune for Broad, who drew a number of false strokes as he sought to claim his 200th Test wicket.

The milestone eluded him, but Clarke was given good reason to celebrate when reaching three figures in the evening sun.

Smith passed 50 soon after and demonstrated his confidence with a crunching pull off James Anderson when the second new ball was taken.

With the pitch playing increasingly well, a number of further boundaries came in the day’s remaining overs and England were left hoping a new day would bring a change in fortunes.

Match Scorecard

Live ball-by-ball commentary

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Evening Session

Highlights of a fine evening session for Australia on day one of the third Investec Ashes Test

6:32pm - STUMPS - Aus 303/3; Clarke 125, Smith 70 - A fine day for the tourists comes to an end with Clarke and Smith's partnership totalling 174. England will have plenty of hard work ahead tomorrow, it seems.

6:25pm - When you win the toss and choose to bat on a good surface, 300 for three is often the dream outcome on day one. Australia are at that point with two overs left.

6:12pm - As if to illustrate my previous point, Smith clips and drives to the boundary in the same Anderson over.

6:02pm - The new nut often proves a fickle beast, and so it has today. With the humidity up, you would have hoped England would get it hooping; instead it's flying to the boundary with regularity.

5:50pm - This is a crucial period now; there are 40 minutes left and England have taken the second new ball. Anderson's first delivery back into the attack is pulled powerfully through midwicket by Smith.

5:43pm - FIFTY! Smith (115 4x4 0x6) - Soon after Clarke crunches Bresnan over mid-off for another boundary, his partner reaches a responsible half-century. This has been an excellent day for Australia thus far.

5:32pm - CENTURY! Clarke (169b 13x4 0x6) - What an innings from the skipper. Clarke, barring a tricky spell before lunch, has looked in complete control all day and illustrated his vast quality. Given his penchant for making big 'uns, England will need to find a response. He brought up the ton, Australia's first in the series, with a clip to leg off Swann.

5:27pm - Clarke, who crunched Bresnan for a straight four just prior to drinks, is now on to 97 and scenting a 24th format hundred.

5:12pm - Smith shows his partner is not the only one who can attack Swann, striking fours down the ground and through backward point, the latter coming on the back of an Anderson misfield.

5:06pm - Tim Bresnan has found a hint of reverse swing, but not enough to trouble the batsmen as of yet.

4:48pm - James Anderson is brought back into the attack as Broad heads for a rest. His first ball is crashed to the boundary by Clarke, who is closing on a century.

4:38pm - England continue to plug away but Clarke, in particular, looks in fine fettle, epitomised by an upper-cut over slip off Broad.

4:21pm - Clarke is beginning to look in good touch; after cutting the returning Graeme Swann for four, he finds the fence again when powerfully pulling Broad through midwicket.

4:14pm - The luckless Broad's frustration continues as he raps Smith on the pad. Replays show it was plumb yet umpire Tony Hill turned down a loud appeal, with England having used their reviews.

4:06pm - Stuart Broad, who has bowled much better than his figures of 0-51 suggest, is in at the other end.

4:01pm - Joe Root bowls the first over after tea, which costs three runs. Australia will be desperate for Michael Clarke and Steven Smith to extend their stand significantly.

Afternoon Session

Highlights of the afternoon session at Emirates Old Trafford, which saw Australia take the honours

3:40pm - TEA - Aus 180/3; Clarke 55, Smith 20 - The afternoon session comes to an end and Australia will probably be the happier thanks to Clarke and Smith’s restorative alliance.

3:33pm - Australia's fourth-wicket partnership is now worth 50 and the pendulum appears to have tilted in their favour once more as tea approaches.

3:28pm - REVIEW - England are convinced they have Smith caught behind in Anderson's first over back, but umpire Marais Erasmus remains unmoved. Matt Prior immediately calls for a review yet the decision stands with no mark on HotSpot. England are out of reviews.

3:21pm - Both Clarke and Smith are using their feet well to counter the threat posed by Swann. Alastair Cook responds by bringing Anderson back into the attack from the Statham End.

3:12pm - Smith guides Bresnan through midwicket for his first four. He just needs to hold firm here with his captain looking good at the other end. England would love another scalp before tea and Swann is back over the wicket.

3:04pm - FIFTY! Clarke (67b 7x4 0x6) - Kevin Pietersen shows fine athleticism at mid-on to save three. That’s pretty impressive from a player who was a fitness doubt ahead of this match. The increasingly dangerous Clarke then brings up his second fifty in succession with a pulled four off Bresnan.

2:58pm - Swann is now operating from round the wicket to Clarke, but Australia's skipper continues to attack and a lofted straight drive results in his sixth four.

2:50pm - REVIEW - This time a review goes in Australia's favour, but only just! Steven Smith is rapped on the pad playing back to one that turned sharply from outside off. Umpire Tony Hill does not raise the finger and his decision stands with HawkEye showing the ball was not quite striking enough of leg stump. Clarke duly advances to consecutive deliveries from Swann and claims boundaries through cover and over mid-off.

2:45pm - With Rogers gone, Clarke is undoubtedly the key man now. He plays and misses, not for the first time today, against Bresnan in the first over after drinks.

2:32pm - WICKET! Rogers lbw Swann 84; Aus 129/3 - Poor old Rogers! Perhaps distracted by movement behind the bowler's arm moments earlier, he misses a full ball from Swann when looking to work to leg and is plumb lbw. He batted superbly today, but remains without a Test hundred. Clarke was put down at leg slip just before Rogers' exit, although replays showed no bat was involved.

2:27pm - Tim Bresnan takes over from the luckless Broad and he too beats Rogers as the left-hander attempts a booming drive. That’s an unusually loose stroke from a player who has prospered on the front foot throughout his innings.

2:19pm - Broad gives Clarke the hurry-up with a bouncer and then beats Rogers again. The seamer can consider himself unfortunate not to have added to his 199 Test wickets today.

2:12pm - An eventful over from Broad sees Rogers drives effortlessly through the off side for four and three. In between those strokes, the left-hander is beaten all ends up. Graeme Swann is back on in place of Anderson.

2:05pm - Broad maintains a probing line to Clarke, who is then beaten by a jaffa from Anderson that nipped away off a good length. Soon after, the right-hander makes a late decision to leave and the ball flies through third man for four off the bottom of the bat.

1:56pm - That’s better from Clarke; he gets to the pitch of the ball on this occasion and drives Anderson through cover to take Australia into three figures. Much could depend on whether the touring skipper can play his first big innings of the series today.

1:52pm - Clarke has yet to fully settle and gets a thick inside edge into the leg side when attempting to drive a length ball from Stuart Broad. England have an off-side sweeper in place for Chris Rogers, but he plays late to collect four behind point.

1:43pm - The afternoon session begins with James Anderson bowling to Michael Clarke.

Morning Session

Highlights of an intriguing opening session at Emirates Old Trafford

1:05pm - LUNCH – Aus 92/2; Rogers 67, Clarke 5 - Australia’s captain is up and running in the final over of the morning. Rogers can be very pleased with his work in that session, but the departures of Watson and Khawaja have left things intriguingly poised.

12:59pm - Anderson, who has changed ends for a second time, poses problems for Michael Clarke and there will be time for one more over before lunch.

12:49pm - WICKET! Khawaja c Prior b Swann 1; Aus 82/2 -  Khawaja plays around a full ball from Swann but survives the resulting appeal for lbw. There is no review from England but we go upstairs next ball when the number three is given out caught behind having driven at one that turned sharply and bounced. After countless replays, the third umpire opts not to overturn Tony Hill’s decision and Khawaja has to go!

12:44pm - Graeme Swann, who twice accounted for Rogers at Lord’s, is given his first bowl of the match from the Pavilion End. Khawaja gets off the mark in the next over.

12:35pm - Rogers gets the score moving again with a leg-side single off Anderson that takes him to 20,000 first-class runs.

12:31pm - Australia have not scored since Watson’s departure. A second successive maiden ends with Bresnan finding away movement to beat new batsman Usman Khawaja.

12:20pm - WICKET! Watson c Cook b Bresnan 19; Aus 76/1 - The fours keep on coming for Rogers, but Watson’s unconvincing innings is brought to an end as he edges straight to first slip when pushing forward at Bresnan. That’s a handy breakthrough for England as runs had come quickly since drinks.

12:16pm - FIFTY! Rogers (49b 10x4 0x6) - Anderson changes ends but Rogers is undeterred and finds the midwicket fence. After failing to repeat the trick next ball, the in-form batsman then drives confidently through cover and point to bring up his half-century from 49 deliveries.

12:09pm - Rogers looks to be in fantastic touch here. The first two balls after drinks, from Bresnan, are driven square and straight for the left-hander’s sixth and seventh fours.

11:59am - In contrast to his partner, Watson is struggling to impose himself. He plays and misses facing Bresnan and then gets lucky once more when a mis-cued drive squirts safely down to third man for three.

11:54am - Tim Bresnan starts with a maiden to Rogers before Broad, the pick of the attack thus far, finds swing to inconvenience both batsmen. The Nottinghamshire man finishes his sixth over with a loose delivery and Rogers reaches out to collect four more through the off side.

11:41am - A sweetly timed drive down the ground off Anderson brings Rogers four more. He looks much more comfortable than his partner, who is fortunate to see another loose drive drop just short of Jonny Bairstow at point.

11:34am - Rogers’ confident start continues as he eases a full outswinger from Anderson behind square for four. A familiar scene then ensues as Watson plants his front foot and is struck on the pad by Broad. England’s lbw appeal is turned down and the decision not to review is a wise one as replays show the ball was going narrowly over the top. 

11:26am - Having contended with a change of angle from Anderson, Rogers drives Broad past mid-off for three and subsequently clips four through midwicket to reach 18 from as many deliveries.

11:17am - As anticipated, there is good bounce on offer and Broad makes the most of it when beating Watson outside off stump with successive deliveries in a threatening maiden. An early breakthrough would pile the pressure on Australia’s much-criticised batting unit.

11:09am - Watson picks up his first boundary, albeit in somewhat streaky fashion via a loose drive over backward point.

11:05am - A productive first over for Australia sees Shane Watson get off the mark with a single before Chris Rogers squirts James Anderson down to third man for four. Stuart Broad shares the new cherry.

Pre-Play News

10:59am - The players enter the field to rapturous applause and we are ready to go. Home hero Anderson will kick things off from the Pavilion End.

10:52am - While we wait for play to begin, why not take a look at some highlights of the last Ashes Test on this ground. It was a belter... 

10:32am - AUSTRALIA WIN TOSS AND BAT - Clarke calls correctly and decides to bat. Pietersen is fit to take his place in an unchanged England team, while Australia bring in David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc. Phil Hughes, Ashton Agar and the injured James Pattinson are the players to make way.

10:25am - It will be interesting to see if the captain winning the toss is tempted to have a bowl. Although we are not expecting any rain today, there is a muggy atmosphere at present that could aid the seamers. Maybe it's a good toss to lose?

10:10am - For Australia, nothing less than victory will do if they are to keep alive their hopes of retaining the Ashes. Heavily beaten at Lord's last time out, the tourists are expected to make a number of changes for this encounter. We will find out the team news for both sides when the toss takes place in 20 minutes.

10am - Having been presented with the aforementioned silver salver, Anderson joins his team-mates for the warm-up. Kevin Pietersen is also in the England huddle, with skipper Alastair Cook having expressed optimism over the batsman’s fitness in his pre-match press conference. You can read what Cook and Michael Clarke had to say here.

9:55am - There is certainly plenty of excitement at Emirates Old Trafford, which is staging its first Ashes contest in eight years following significant redevelopment work. The ground looks an absolute picture.

Prior to play commencing today, James Anderson will be presented with a silver salver by Lancashire chairman Michael Cairns and former England bowlers Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis. This is to recognise his achievement of reaching 300 Test wickets and becoming the Red Rose club’s leading wicket-taker in Tests. Anderson needs six wickets in this game to surpass Willis' tally of 325 five-day scalps, while Botham leads the England list on 383.

9:45am - Good morning from Manchester. After a series of downpours yesterday, it is dry and warm at Emirates Old Trafford and we have little more than an hour to wait until the third Investec Ashes Test gets under way. As if you need reminding, England are 2-0 up in the five-match series and can secure the famous little urn in this match. I cannot be the only person who is extremely excited right now.

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