Watson and Hussey to the fore
Shane Watson and Mike Hussey shared the batting honours for Australia in front of a 5,000-strong crowd on the first day of two against England Lions at Canterbury.
Watson hit a superb 95 from just 85 balls and Hussey a less flamboyant but still valuable 65 in Australia’s only fixture between the fourth and fifth npower Tests.
Seven of the side likely to play in the Ashes decider at the Brit Oval were included, plus Nathan Hauritz and Stuart Clark, who are expected to fight it out for the final bowling place.
Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Ben Hilfenhaus were the only three frontline players rested, while the England selectors opted to replace Jonathan Trott with Joe Sayers, the Yorkshire opener.
Put in to bat by Jamie Dalrymple, the Lions captain, Australia lost the early wicket of Simon Katich, who hit a short ball straight to cover in the second over, before threatening to run the Lions bowling attack ragged.
The England second string did claw it back in the field, though, before Australia eventually declared late in the day.
Ricky Ponting, as ever leading from the front, needed to concentrate hard to come through a testing new-ball spell by Steve Kirby.
But he was soon into his stride, hitting Liam Plunkett for four fours in an over and nine overall in a 61-ball 45 as he and Watson added 74 in 15 overs.
The Lions were fortunate with the manner of Ponting’s dismissal, the skipper caught down the leg side attempting to pull Chris Woakes.
Hussey, however, helped Watson add a further 87 for the third wicket and Australia went into lunch on 163 for two from just 29 overs.
Watson, on 92 at lunch, had scored only three more runs when he drove firm-footed at Plunkett and edged behind. His fine array of strokes included a six, pulled off Woakes, and 15 fours.
Marcus North was brilliantly caught at point by Michael Carberry, one of four catches he took in the ring, as the batsman slashed at Kirby.
Both Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee fell cheaply to Gary Keedy’s teasing left-arm spin, chipping to midwicket and edging to slip respectively.
Hussey’s 65 from 101 balls included 10 fours but the scoring rate slowed as the Lions fought back.
Carberry, at backward point, made his fourth catch look easy as Hussey thick-edged Woakes.
After some late resistance from Hauritz and Peter Siddle, who added 40 before the declaration, there were nine overs for Sayers and Stephen Moore to negotiate, which they did safely in adding 23.