Sunday 21 January 2018

Nervy England toil after Clarke masterclass

England's batsmen must respond to the pressure applied by Michael Clarke if they are to retain the Ashes in Manchester after all.

For the first time in this series, thanks largely to Clarke's tour-de-force 187 and then a nervy start from England's top order, the hosts are behind the game after Australia piled up 527 for seven declared on day two of the third Test at Old Trafford.

Clarke and Steve Smith (89) extended their record stand to 214 yesterday; then, either side of tea, Brad Haddin (65no) and Mitchell Starc (66no) put on another 97 in under 20 overs.

In 30 more before the stumps, England lost Joe Root and then Tim Bresnan to Peter Siddle in a vulnerable 52 for two.

It was Stuart Broad who eventually saw off Clarke, a notable scalp for his 200th Test wicket – with a short ball which nipped into the gloves and was deflected down on to the stumps.

But the success of Graeme Swann (five for 159) was the most obvious hint that Clarke's 314-ball stay might have given his own off-spinner Nathan Lyon an outside chance of helping to bowl England out twice here to keep the series alive.

There were no wickets for Australia's frontline spinner, but he was a constant threat to Alastair Cook.


Instead, after Cook and Root had withstood the best efforts of four bowlers – the young Yorkshireman mustering just a single off the first 40 balls he faced – it was Siddle who struck.

Clarke held the seamer back for 21 overs, but Siddle had Root with only his 10th ball – a very good one which took the outside-edge behind.

Yorkshireman Bresnan's nightwatchman innings ended a couple of hours later, caught behind off his thigh after missing a pull at Siddle.

It almost got worse for England when Cook was short of his ground responding to Jonathan Trott's call for a single in the penultimate over.

But after David Warner's throw from mid-wicket missed by a whisker, the England captain survived to rejoin what is sure to be another tough battle today.

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