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Smith stars as runs flow

Steven Smith looks to have secured his place in Australia's team for next week's third Investec Ashes Test after top-scoring with an unbeaten 98 on the first day of the tour match against Sussex at the County Ground.

The 24-year-old from Sydney was one of several batsmen under pressure after making just three runs in Australia's heavy defeat at Lord's, but his was the standout performance on an encouraging day for the Australians looking to force their way into contention for Old Trafford on Thursday.

Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes, with 66 and 84 respectively, figured in an opening stand of 150 in 35 overs, although reserve wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was out for a duck as Australia ended the first day on 354 for five after winning the toss.

Smith and all-rounder James Faulkner revived the tourists with a stand of 131 in 28 overs for the fifth wicket after Australia had failed to build on the platform provided by Cowan and Hughes when they lost four wickets for 68 runs in 27 overs.

The duo were  particularly effective when Sussex took the second new ball, with 47 runs plundered in five overs - including three successive boundaries by Smith off Chris Liddle.

Faulkner became Monty Panesar's third victim in the penultimate over when he was bowled hitting across the line and, although Smith hit the first ball of the last over for his 15th boundary, he still needs two runs to complete what would be only the third hundred on the tour so far by an Australian.

Earlier, Cowan and Hughes batted throughout the morning session, although the latter was badly dropped on 22 by Sussex skipper Chris Nash at second slip off Chris Jordan.

The left-hander chanced his arm on several occasions against the new ball in a somewhat skittish innings, yet did play some pleasing back-foot shots when offered any width by the Sussex seamers.

Cowan looked more assured until he tried to work a ball from Lewis Hatchett off his hips and was well caught by James Taylor, the Nottinghamshire batsman playing for Sussex as a guest at the request of the ECB. Cowan's 66 came off 112 balls with 10 fours.

Hatchett, in only his second first-class game of the season, looked Sussex's most threatening seamer and struck again in the 42nd over when Hughes was caught behind, drawn into playing at a ball that held its line outside off stump.

Usman Khawaja looked reasonably secure until he pushed hard at Panesar and edged to Jordan at slip.

Wade, playing his first game for a month, had talked optimistically before the game about forcing his way into the Test team as a specialist batsman but lasted just six balls before being held at backward point in the first over after tea aiming a forcing shot off the back foot at Panesar.

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