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Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 19:00 UK

Clarke & North make England toil

First Ashes Test, Cardiff (day three, stumps):
England 435 v Australia 479-5
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave, Red Button and BBC Sport website, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles. Live on Sky Sports
Match scorecard

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke played some elegant strokes between lunch and tea

By Oliver Brett

Australia maintained their solid position on day three in Cardiff, leading England by 44 runs with five wickets in hand in the first Test.

Rain knocked 22 overs off the day's play, leaving the Aussies on 479-5 after an historic late-evening session played under floodlights.

Three wickets did fall in the morning, Australia going to lunch on 348-4 from an overnight position of 249-1.

But Michael Clarke (83) and Marcus North (54) then put on 143 in 42 overs.

The left-handed North batted calmly and patiently on his Ashes debut, and will be there again on Saturday morning after facing 131 balls thus far.

Clarke showed his acumen against spin and was generally unperturbed against the seamers too as he played a more positive role.

TOM FORDYCE BLOG

But late in the day he was surprised by a Stuart Broad bouncer which he gloved behind as he attempted a pull, leaving him just shy of a first Test century in England in his sixth appearance.

While Friday's rain was largely unexpected, further heavy showers are forecast from around noon on Saturday - so the odds favour a draw despite Australia's dominant position.

However England, whose chances of going 1-0 up with four to play appear to have completely evaporated, may yet find themselves battling to avoid defeat on the final day.

Friday dawned brightly in south Wales, with Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich resuming their marathon partnership.

Aussie skipper Ponting soon advanced his score with two boundaries, flogging a Monty Panesar long-hop through the covers and driving a Graeme Swann full toss down the ground.

Katich leant into a cover-drive off Panesar for his first boundary of the morning, and followed up with a square-cut off Swann that sped to the ropes. Australia were quickly re-establishing their dominance.

Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad struggled again, before eventually removing Michael Clarke

Nine overs into the day the second new ball became available and the scoring remained rapid, although Ponting had a bit of good fortune when steering an Anderson ball just wide of Kevin Pietersen in the gully at catchable height.

Finally, the stand was ended by James Anderson, Katich falling lbw for 122 to a yorker-length ball from Anderson that actually swung, unlike anything sent down by England on day two. Katich and Ponting had been together for 70 overs, adding 239.

Flintoff was bowling extremely quickly and his bouncers were not played with any ease by either Ponting or the new man Michael Hussey. Ponting top-edged one hook just over Panesar at fine-leg for the first six of the series, though it was a no-ball, and both batsmen received painful blows.

But it was Anderson who picked up the second wicket of the morning, persuading Hussey to drive outside off-stump, the left-hander tickling an easy catch to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

Skipper Ponting continued to make progress, until Panesar picked up his first Test wicket since the Trinidad Test in March, the slow left-armer's fifth ball of a new spell providing the biggest prize of the day.

Ponting, on 150, could only get a bottom-edge to crash into his stumps as he attempted a cut shot, and at lunch Australia were still 87 runs behind and perhaps no longer targeting the sort of huge score that had been in their sights at the start of play.

But the session between lunch and tea in this Test has proved a graveyard shift for the bowlers - and so it proved once again with not a wicket to be had. In three days just one man has been dismissed in the middle session - Phillip Hughes on day two.

Two spectators
Even in the rain, fans like to show their national allegiance

North got off the mark with a crisp on-drive for four off Broad, who was also cover-driven elegantly by Clarke. Frankly, Broad was not much of a threat but Andrew Strauss persisted with him.

At the other end Panesar had his moments, but Clarke hit him for an effortless straight six, and when Swann came on another fine drive, this time for four, brought Clarke his half-century.

North, patient against the seamers, started to play freely against the spinners and when Clarke pulled Flintoff powerly to the midwicket fence Australia moved into the lead.

At tea the Aussies were sitting very prettily indeed on 458-4, with Clarke on 70 and North on 50, but just three overs and five runs later the rain came down.

It took nearly two hours to get the players back out again, whereupon Clarke punched an exquisite back-foot drive off Flintoff to the extra-cover boundary.

Six overs were played under the Cardiff lights - the first time a Test match in Britain had been artificially lit - and while North continued to accumulate tidily, England had the consolation of removing a very dangerous-looking Clarke.



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see also
England must dig deep - Anderson
10 Jul 09 |  England
England v Australia photos day three
10 Jul 09 |  England
Aussie batsmen dominate England
09 Jul 09 |  England
Lack of swing mystifies England
09 Jul 09 |  England
England make solid start to Ashes
08 Jul 09 |  England
Pietersen defends Ashes dismissal
08 Jul 09 |  England
Australia in England 2009
21 Apr 08 |  England


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Telegraph Australia strengthen grip on first Test - 1 hr ago
IOL Ponting leads from the front - 3 hrs ago
Sport24.co.za Ponting sets shining example - 3 hrs ago
Yahoo! Canada Ponting sets shining example to England - 3 hrs ago
Irish Times Rain dampens Aussie onslaught - 3 hrs ago


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