Michael Clarke dragged Australia back into the Ashes series by hitting his 24th test century against lackluster England on Thursday, taking the spotlight away from more umpiring controversy on the opening day of the third test.
The captain became the first Australian to make three figures this series as he reached stumps on 125 not out, with the tourists in command on 303-3 as they looks for a victory to stay alive in the Ashes.
On a hot and humid day at Old Trafford, Australia’s batsmen finally found some form with opener Chris Rogers hitting a test-best 84 and Steve Smith adding an unbeaten 70.
That helped them overcome the dubious dismissal of Usman Khawaja, who was given out caught behind despite replay technology showing he hadn’t touched the ball.
Earlier, Usman Khawaja was left aggrieved after he was given out caught behind off Swann for one, despite replay technology showing the batsman hadn’t touched the ball with his bat. England is 2-0 ahead in the five-match series and will retain the Ashes with a draw or victory.
Australia has yet to reach 300 in its four innings so far this series, the reason why the team currently finds itself battling to stay alive at such an early stage of the summer.
Criticized back home and scoffed at in England, the tourists’ batsmen needed to find their form here and Rogers and Clarke produced some elegant, positive strokeplay in humid, hot conditions after Australia won the toss.
The 35-year-old Rogers shared a 76-run opening partnership with Shane Watson (19) and splayed England’s pace attack to all corners of Old Trafford, with five fours in the two overs after the drinks break bringing up his fifty off just 49 balls.
He started getting twitchy as he entered his 80s, playing and missing twice. He then became irritated by movement in his eyeline in the pavilion and Swann seized his chance, claiming his second wicket with the very next ball.
Smith survived an lbw review by Swann when on nought and also a caught-behind appeal from James Anderson on 18, with DRS indicating there was no nick on HotSpot and Dharmasena therefore seeing no reason to overturn the on-field umpire’s call. Anderson and England’s slip cordon looked bemused at the decision.
Smith was happy to play second fiddle to Clarke, who was rarely troubled in making his 28th test half-century and posting his best score of the series.
Australia made three changes, with batsman David Warner, paceman Mitchell Starc and spinner Nathan Lyon in place of Phillip Hughes, the injured James Pattinson and Ashton Agar.