Imperious Clarke hits 187 to put Australia in driving seat

Australia turn the tables by reaching 527 for seven at Old Trafford

Michael Clarke of Australia hits out during day two of the 3rd Investec Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fortunes can change rapidly in a Test series. Match to match, session to session. Humiliated at Lord's to the point of ridicule, the Australians have regrouped to such an extent that it is they rather than England who have taken control of the third Test, with a batting performance - founded on Michael Clarke's magnificent 187 - every bit as good as it has been bad previously and late incursions into the England innings.

When, four overs into the final session of the day, Clarke brought an end to the purgatory suffered by the England seamers in particular and called in his batsmen, Australia had reached 527 for seven, with an unbroken eighth wicket stand between Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc worth 97 at a jaunty rate.

Earlier, Steve Smith had been dismissed for 89, rather wantonly throwing away the chance of a Test match hundred when it was there for the taking.

It left England what turned out to be 30 overs to bat which they failed to do unscathed losing both Joe Root and a nightwatchman Tim Bresnan to Peter Siddle in reaching 52.


Alastair Cook will resume on 36 and Jonathan Trott on 2. Cook and Root did manage 47 for the first wicket but it was a torturous effort from Root, who was scoreless for 34 balls at one stage and had only eight in more than an hour and a half when Siddle's clever change of angle at the crease saw him edge behind.

Bresnan coming in to protect Trott with more than eight overs to go is surely too much, but he lasted 17 minutes more until he tried to pull Siddle. Haddin claimed a catch possibly from an underedge and although Bresnan queried it with Cook, he departed. Replays suggested the ball missed his bat and clipped his clothing. Perhaps they reasoned that given the Usman Khawaja incident on the first day, a reprieve was unlikely, or simply that it would be a waste to risk a review on a nightwatchman. Only they know. It was a raw deal for Bresnan though and good fortune for Siddle, who makes his own luck.

Three of the second-day wickets went to Graeme Swann, who bowled resourcefully for 43 overs in all, found some occasional turn particularly when the ball was harder, and finished with five wickets, although they cost him 159 runs, so came at a price. It was the seventeenth time he has taken five or more in an innings for England, which places him in the exalted company of Fred Trueman and Derek Underwood, each of whom had more wickets than his current 240, and behind only SF Barnes, 24 times, and Ian Botham, with 27. In an age where 'mystery' seems to be the key quality for prospective spin bowlers, he remains a delightful throwback to old fashioned finger-spinning virtues.

The other wicket went to Stuart Broad, who plugged away, wary of the footholds and bowling within himself. He finally got one to bounce and jag back a little to Clarke, cramping him so that he could only play the ball down and on to his stumps. It was his first wicket since he had Clarke in the second innings at Lord's and it gave him his 200th wicket in Tests.

If this is less of a rarity these days - he is the 63rd bowler to achieve this in Tests and the 15th from England - it does mean that he, Jimmy Anderson, and Swann are only the second trio of England bowlers, each with 200 or more wickets, to play in a Test together and the first since Botham, Bob Willis and Derek Underwood in Colombo in February 1982.

England were already under the hammer after the first day and needed wickets early on to stop the Australian advance, especially as the second new ball, only 10 overs old, was still hard. It took an hour of seam however before Cook turned to Swann for his first over of the day, and, as frequently seems to happen, he gained instant success. Smith, having ridden his luck on the opening day, had played diligently thereafter, his fourth wicket partnership of 214 with Clarke eclipsing that of Sanjay Manjrekar and Mohammad Azharuddin, who added 189 together for India in 1990, as the highest for that wicket in Tests on this ground. His attacking instinct (or was it nerves) got the better of him. Aiming for deep midwicket he succeeded only in skying to midwicket where Jonny Bairstow held the catch.

There now followed a quarter of an hour of comedy gold involving David Warner, whose status is now one of pantomime villain: if only he waxed his moustache. Booed all the way to the crease, he was beaten all ends up by Swann, used his feet to drill him to the extra cover boundary, but then edged gently to Jonathan Trott at slip via Matt Prior's left thigh. Tony Hill quite correctly gave him out, whereupon Warner wandered down to speak to Clarke and then asked for a review. As Warner appeared to strike his pad firmly simultaneously with the ball being edged it is certainly possible that he did not feel it. But Clarke, as non-striker surely ought to have seen the edge. One or the other, or indeed both, were culpable of a gross misjudgement. Warner had to go, and the Australians had thrown away their last review.

Clarke was batting magnificently, clambering into Bresnan with three successive boundaries to reach 150 and beyond, and, on Warner's dismissal, adding a further 62 with a bristling Haddin. His dismissal was as much of a shock to the crowd as it was blessed relief for the England bowlers, for Clarke, when he gets in, tends to go very big indeed. Double hundreds and beyond are elusive for Australians in 29 visits to this ground, for aside from Bob Simpson's triple in the interminable 1964 Ashes bore, Clarke's is the highest. It therefore leaves the coach of Yorkshire as the last Australian to register a Test match double hundred outside Australia. Yes, Jason Gillespie. Now there is one for the quizzers.

Guardian Service