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Australia gain foothold in Third Ashes Test

Updated: Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 18:20 | Comments

Steve Smith of Australia edges past England wicketkeeper Matt Prior during day one of the 3rd Ashes Test match
Steve Smith of Australia edges past England wicketkeeper Matt Prior during day one of the 3rd Ashes Test match

Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke helped Australia overcome more DRS controversy to scramble a foothold in the Ashes at Emirates Old Trafford today.

Rogers' Test-best 84 and captain Clarke's unbeaten 55 underpinned the tourists' teatime 180 for three after they had chosen to bat first in this third match of five.

On a pitch already giving off-spinner Graeme Swann conspicuous assistance, Australia were therefore acceptably placed as they seek to stop England clinching the Ashes for a third successive time.

Only an away victory here will keep the destination of the urn in doubt for the remainder of the Investec series.

But Rogers had vowed two days ago to dig in and fight for his runs, and so he did - with a string of sweetly-timed and placed shots mixed in for good measure - on the way past only his second Test half-century.

After the left-hander had dominated an opening stand of 76 with Shane Watson, Australia's resolve was tested nonetheless when the decision review system did them no favours.

Watson was already gone, edging a good delivery from first-change Tim Bresnan to slip, by the time Usman Khawaja fell foul of a review procedure which has been vexed throughout the series.

It has never been more so than today when Khawaja queried Tony Hill's on-field decision that he had been caught-behind off Swann for a single.

There appeared ample evidence, as International Cricket Council protocol dictates there must be, for third umpire Kumar Dharmasena to overturn the verdict.

Yet despite the absence of Hotspot or any audio-visual clue that bat had made contact with ball, Khawaja had to go.

It was a harsh outcome from every angle, but the batsman himself made the first mistake by playing a very poor shot to a length ball which turned sharply.

Rogers had passed his 50 in mid-morning at better than a run-a-ball, racing past the milestone with three fours in one over when James Anderson began his second spell from the Statham end.

The opener remained on course for a maiden Test century until he became Swann's second victim, his concentration compromised perhaps by a delay thanks to movement behind the arm before he was lbw aiming to leg.

Clarke and new partner Steve Smith quickly assessed that they could not allow Swann to dictate on a surface already so favourable to him.

They used their feet well to England's frontline spinner and left wisely against Bresnan, the pick of the seamers, in an unbroken stand of 51.

There were two moments of DRS fortune for Smith as England used up their two reviews.

Swann thought he had his man lbw for nought only for Hawk-Eye to vindicate Hill's initial not-out verdict by the finest of margins. Then on 18, Smith survived again when Dharmasena decided an audible but unidentifiable click on audio replay was not enough to overturn Marais Erasmus' caught-behind not-out off Anderson.

In increasingly sunny conditions, after Clarke passed his 50 in 67 balls, Australia therefore established a competitive first-innings platform.

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