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Clarke-charged Australia seizes control

Siddle’s two-wicket burst leaves England trailing by 475 runs after Clarke’s 187 helps Australia declare for 527

Clarke-charged Australia seizes control - Cricket News
Peter Siddle (R) of Australia celebrates the wicket of Tim Bresnan of England.
Michael Clarke’s glorious 187. Steve Smith’s engaging 89. Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc’s boisterous 97-run stand. And Peter Siddle’s figures of 2 for 7 at the close. If England was hoping for a turnaround, it left Old Trafford at the end of the second day with heavy hearts, trailing Australia by 475 runs.
 
After declaring on 527 for 7, Australia’s bowlers performed with discipline and menace, eventually finagling a pair of well-deserved wickets in the final session of the day. First, Siddle persuaded one to straighten, taking Joe Root’s outside edge into Haddin’s gloves, and then Tim Bresnan, the nightwatchman, missed a lash to leg, the ball brushing his trousers en route to the same destination, and he was given out by umpire Marais Erasmus. Almost unbelievably, England declined to review the decision so Jonathan Trott emerged, and even then, with only two-and-a-half overs remaining, Alastair Cook was almost run out and Trott almost caught at second slip. 
 
Earlier in the day, Clarke had made it all look so easy, especially in the thoughtful and elegant way in which he unpicked Graeme Swann’s spin, body and mind perfectly aligned. But he discriminated against the quicks with similar prejudice, going hard at the ball outside off-stump to disturb a line collectively targeted in that area. The impression that England was not replete with strategy beyond that was unavoidable.
 
Clarke was eventually dismissed by Stuart Broad, crowded by a short ball and folding at the waist. It then struck his ribs and dropped on to the stumps, ending his innings after 187 precious, crafted runs.
 
The likelihood of England ever admitting as much is faint, but England may well rue two decisions made on Thursday. We’ll likely never know quite what they expected from the pitch, but it surely must have been different to what it delivered; Chris Tremlett’s pace and bounce, or even Monty Panesar’s turn, would surely have extracted from it more threatening behaviour than could Bresnan, tidily though he bowled. Likewise, Cook’s decision last evening to donate the second new ball to a tired attack, only for them to waste it, also seems like an oversight.
 
After a brief swirl of rain in the morning, the sun emerged and Broad harrumphed in to find that nothing much had changed. When Smith effortlessly pushed a decent ball from Anderson to the cover boundary, England began working hard on it, already seeking the reverse swing security blanket. Or put another way, if it was to bowl Australia out, Swann would need to contribute the majority of the wickets.  
 
Peculiarly, he was not used in the first hour. Instead, the pacemen were flogged further, Clarke confident enough to leave them on length. Of course, Clarke, being Clarke, he was still keen to harry things along, elevating en pointe to caress another good delivery from Anderson to the boundary at deep point.
 
But he was not infallible. Facing Bresnan, he first checked a shot to the covers that dropped only just in front of Kevin Pietersen, and, immediately afterwards, slammed uppishly to short cover, Swann thrusting up a jazz hand to achieve nothing but a painful clunk on the left wrist.
 
In the meantime, Smith accumulated gently, inching towards a maiden Test century before perpetrating an act so dunderheaded as to be almost majestic. In Swann’s first over, and without the remotest warning, he flung himself across the line aiming for deep midwicket, instead imparting a top-edge. Jonny Bairstow, at short midwicket, set himself underneath and caught easily, saluting the crowd football-style while Smith attacked the air, the world’s most furious man.
 
And the football gesticulations continued when David Warner came to the wicket, jeers whistling around the ground. But the next action came at the other end, Clarke’s expertise in microcosm. Facing Bresnan, first he reached his 150 with a four ushered through backward point, before swiping his follow-up high through mid-on and down to long-on with brilliant condescension. Then, delivered a ball down a similar line, he rocked and rose, back and on tiptoes, banishing it to deep point with an almighty crack. If yesterday was an exhibition of footwork, today showcased the speed and strength of his wrists.
 
Warner had faced just nine balls, scoring five, when he nicked Swann onto Prior’s thigh, the rebound lobbing kindly for Trott. This prompted much glee in the crowd, and there followed a review as speculative as it was unimaginable, the batsmen apparently bargaining on the fallibility of the system – though Swann later revealed that Warner was convinced that he'd not hit the ball. Umpire Dharmasena did not require the services of Hotspot, and further glee eventuated.
 
But this only brought Haddin to the middle, quickly into his stride with two quick fours before power-clipping Anderson high to cow corner to bring up the bowler’s century. He did not wave to the crowd. 
 
Haddin then missed with a couple of swishes, again aimed at Anderson, and the second caused an under-edge. Already moving to his right, Prior dived forwards but could only flick the ball with his glove. So great was England’s trauma that it could only proceed as though nothing had happened.
 
After Clarke’s dismissal, Siddle arrived in the middle, and retained patience for a grand total of five balls, aiming another inexplicable swipe at Swann. Seeking cow corner and finding minor embarrassment, he effectively bowled himself, off stump.
 
But when Starc came in and batted similarly but successfully, the suggestion was that a declaration would come earlier than expected, Siddle simply been following a plan. Swinging consecutive boundaries off Swann, one viciously shooed down the ground before another to cow corner, he also swatted a ‘Matthew Hayden whack’ straight past Bresnan before reaching his 50 from just 53 balls, care of a murderous pull in front of square.
 
England, meanwhile, was reactive and bedraggled. Its quick bowlers never quite stopped worrying about subsiding footholds, and at times England fielded with six men on the boundary. After being forced to endure additional 14 minutes of suffering after tea, Clarke called in Haddin and Starc, who finished on 65 and 66 respectively, leaving England to negotiate 34 overs before the close.
 
There was a possibility that Australia’s slightly quicker bowlers would massage more joy from the pitch than England’s, and Starc opened with a beautiful ball, locating the swing England had found so elusive and taking the ball away from Cook. But subsequently, he was generous into Cook’s legs and outside off-stump, allowing him to score and ignore. Harris was a little better from the other end, but it was no surprise when both bowlers were replaced early into their spells by Nathan Lyon and Shane Watson.
 
The bowling improved thereafter, with Lyon, unfortunate to be excluded from the first two Tests, its most dangerous component. His third ball bit into the pitch and spat at Cook, who edged against Haddin’s thigh. But Clarke’s weight was on his heels, waving arms unable to propel him forward into the catch. Collecting 20 wickets on what is still a flat track might prove to be beyond Australia, but no one is laughing at them anymore.

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