Ashes 2013: Michael Clarke's century helps Australia dominate Day 1 against England at Old Trafford

Michael Clarke scored his 24th Test century and 10th as Australia captain in the third Ashes Test at Old Trafford © Getty Images

By Sarang Bhalerao

Aug 1, 2013

Michael Clarke’s century (125 not out) has helped Australia score 303 for three against England on Day One of the third Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The unbeaten fourth wicket stand of 174 between captain Clarke and Steven Smith (70 not out) helped Australia take control of the day on a placid track in Manchester.

Clarke looked intent on scoring big right from the moment he took the leg-stump guard. There was a sense of purpose and proper planning in the way he built his innings. His first boundary was an exquisite cover-drive off Stuart Broad which pierced the narrow gap between extra-cover and mid-off. Clarke’s next four was rather streaky when he decided to leave the James Anderson delivery rather late. The balls took the edge of the bat and beat the third-slip and gully for a boundary.

Graeme Swann was England’s best bowler and has posed several difficulties for Australian batsmen. Clarke decided to take him on. The contest was absorbing. Swann turned a few had Clarke in an ugly strange. Round one Swann.  Clarke used his feet well against Swann. He took the aerial route to unsettle Swann. The drives against Swann were top-notch especially the cover drive and straight drive which were all along the ground. Clarke won the second round.

Clarke, as a matter of fact, was intent on taking the attack to the opposition. England tried to bounce him out. He swiveled while pulling. Bresnan was quizzical. Broad interspersed fuller deliveries with shortish balls but Clarke it seemed was sighting the ball well and early. He pulled Broad in front of mid-wicket for a boundary. After scoring his century Clarke was still looking as fresh as a daisy, there was no loose stuff. The on-drive off part-time bowler Jonathan Trott for a boundary showed his class. There was a bubble of self-assurance surrounding the Australian captain.

Australian began positively in the first hour of the morning session. Rogers was particularly impressive as he displayed positive intent right from the outset. His first scoring shot was a drive past point for a boundary. His cover drives, straight drives and backfoot punches were refreshing. He brought his second half-century in Ashes 2013 off just 49 deliveries.

At the other end Rogers’s partner Shane Watson was sedate. Watson survived a close leg-before off the bowling of Stuart Broad.  England bowled straight to him but Watson played that stuff with straight bat without falling over like in the previous games. Just when his innings looked to be promising Watson played down the wrong line against Bresnan and ball took the edge and the Australian opener was caught at first slip for 19.

The talking point of the morning session was Usman Khawaja’s dismissal of caught behind. This happened in the 23rd over of the innings when Swann’s delivery turned and bounced. Khawaja attempted to drive the ball and ‘keeper Matt Prior collected the ball head height. Umpire Tony Hill declared Khawaja out; this call was challenged. Third umpire Kumar Dharmasena upheld the decision but there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Khawaja had edged the ball.

From no loss for 76 to the loss of two wickets in a matter of six runs there was a swing in the momentum in the home side’s favour. After lunch Rogers looked set for a big score. But it was nipped in the bud firstly by a long delay when there were people walking behind bowler Swann. That disrupted Rogers’s concentration and he played across the line to Swann. Rogers’s enterprising knock of 84 gave England a hope putting pressure on the Australian middle-order.

Clarke took the onus upon himself and Smith too supported him well albeit after weathering the storm at the start of the innings. England took the new ball as soon as it was available. Smith pulled the first ball for a four. The duo was in their zone and they looked unperturbed with England’s tactics.

Australia have got a solid base to post a huge total and possibly bat England out of the game. Finally the visitors’ have something to smile about — their batting has clicked. It’s upto the batsman to pile on the agony on a docile wicket and make a comeback in Ashes 2013.

Brief scores:

Australia 303 for 3 (Chris Rogers 84, Michael Clarke 125*, Steven Smith 70*; Graeme Swann 2 for 81) vs England.

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(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)