MANCHESTER: Michael Clarke carried the weight of Australian cricket on his shoulders with immense tenacity as he plundered 187 in their mammoth 507 for seven at tea on the second day of the third Ashes test on Friday.
The captain led from the front with his under-pressure side 2-0 down in the five-match series and he racked up his highest test score against England before tiredness finally got to him and he was bowled, awkwardly playing on to Stuart Broad.
Australia had not managed a century in the series but Clarke, 125 overnight, began to turn the tables on those who laughed at his prediction of a 3-2 series win after the second test humbling at Lord’s.
His wicket was Broad’s 200th in test cricket but it was scant consolation for England, who have laboured under the Old Trafford sun and have seen Steve Smith (89), Chris Rogers (84), Brad Haddin (57 not out) and Mitchell Starc (54 not out) rack up handy scores on a largely flat pitch.
Graeme Swann did take five for 149, removing Smith when the number five gave away his wicket by skying a top-edged sweep to Jonny Bairstow in the off-spinner’s first over of the day.
His dismissal prompted the return of David Warner.
The left-hander punched England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar during June’s Champions Trophy, leading to a ban from the Australia side, but he was drafted back in for this test with the batsmen previously struggling.
Warner was widely booed and taunted from the packed stands as he walked to the crease.
He was initially watchful but got a thick edge on five off Swann, the ball hitting wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s knee and bouncing up for slip Jonathan Trott to take the catch.
Warner conferred with Clarke and reviewed, but replays showed a clear nick and there was nothing wrong with the catch.
The jubilant crowd waved Warner back to the dressing room with glee, leaving Haddin to come in and steady Australia, although his inside edge was dropped on 10 by Prior off the unusually misfiring and wicketless James Anderson.
Warner’s review came after controversy on Thursday when Usman Khawaja was given out by the on-field and third umpires despite not appearing to edge Swann behind. Cricket Australia asked the ICC for clarification over the “incorrect” call.
Clarke, who won the toss, left the field to wild applause from the posse of green and gold clad Australians in the vast temporary stand at the revamped Manchester venue.
Peter Siddle (one) was Swann’s fifth victim when bowled hitting across the line as spin looked to be the way forward with the pacemen struggling to extract enough reverse swing.
Rain hit famously wet Manchester before play but the sun came out just in time to greet the players. Showers are possible on Saturday, however, with the damp bowlers’ footholes already causing problems.