Sunday 25 February 2018 / 04:36 AM

The Ashes – Clarke Show Class

Australia began their Ashes fight back at Old Trafford on Thursday with a dominating display on day one of the third Test.

Under immense pressure and very much on the brink at 2-0 down in the series, the tourists blew England away with a powerful batting display that left them on 303/3 at stumps and fully in control of proceedings.

And it was skipper Michael Clarke who spearheaded the riposte superbly with an unbeaten century that included 17 boundaries as England’s bowlers toiled.

The 32-year-old reached 125no at the close of play and will be confident of building further upon his first century as captain against England when the two sides resume on Friday morning.

Steve Smith will rejoin him at the crease after finishing unbeaten on 70 and the hosts will be desperate to break the 174 fourth wicket stand as soon as possible to give themselves hope of a turnaround.

Alistair Cook and his men would have been looking for a quick start in search of a series clinching win before the contest got underway but it was Clarke who crucially won the toss and elected to bat first.

It gave the Aussies an immediate opportunity to stamp their authority on the game and they did so from the first ball.

Chris Rogers laid a solid foundation in the morning session with a contribution of 84 before falling to Graeme Swann but his side will have been disappointed to go in to the lunch break at 129/3 after Shane Watson (19) and Usman Khawaja (1) failed to inspire, losing their wickets to Bresnan and Swann respectively.

But it was the afternoon and evening sessions that really saw Australia take control as England chased the tails of Clarke and Smith.

And when the new ball finally arrived late in the day, it made little difference, epitomised by Anderson’s first delivery of which that was swatted away to the boundary in effortless fashion by Clarke – who appeared to relish his team’s ‘backs to the wall’ situation.

It’s a must win Test for the tourists and unless there is a major swing in momentum on Friday (something not uncommon so far in the series)then they will be right back in contention for the rest of the summer.

England’s best hope of containing their opponents could well be the elements and if the usual wet Manchester weather does come into play, a draw could well be on the cards – a result which would of course guarantee the home side’s retention of the urn.

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Chris Kisby

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