Batting first at Adelaide has a certain mystique, and Clarke was glad to have the opportunity. But on reaching 29 from 32 balls, with his opening partner Chris Rogers still on 5, David Warner flipped a limp square drive into the hands of Michael Carberry at gully.
Rogers pressed on with Shane Watson though, shrugging off a minor rain delay with Watson playing some crunching early strokes. Further rain meant an early lunch, but the weather would stay fine thereafter, and the partnership followed suit. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann bowled in tandem effectively for a while, and debutant Ben Stokes delivered some good overs, but the batsmen were quite happy to wait out quiet patches - six runs from five overs here, three consecutive maidens there – only to harvest more heavily when the chance arose.
Watson struck a powerful six from Panesar, Rogers took twin fours from Stokes, then brought up his half century with a fine cut from Stuart Broad. Watson reached his own milestone shortly after the drinks break. That was his marker though: with the partnership having swollen to 121 from 44 overs, Watson stretched out to drive a ball that was far too short, making such weak contact that it almost hit the ground before reaching James Anderson in his follow through. Rogers followed next over, rooted to the crease as he reached for a turning Swann delivery and nicked it behind.
Six overs later, Panesar had the first wicket of a Test resurrection. A decent left-arm orthodox delivery pitched on middle stump, and Smith’s clumsy shot with a diagonal bat across the line of the ball had no hope of keeping it out, as it turned to take off stump.
From there, Clarke and Bailey took over, though the latter was put down by Panesar from a tough caught-and-bowled chance on 10, and the former dropped by a diving Joe Root from a flick to midwicket on 18. Their partnership was as attractive as it was effective. Clarke’s pick-up flick off his pads from Jimmy Anderson was the pick of his strokes, while Bailey filled his roles as both consolidator and counter-attacker by striking three sixes in what was nonetheless a sensible and considered batting display.
Raising his maiden Test half-century with the third of his sixes, Bailey also ensured that 33 percent of his Test runs have been scored by shots over the boundary rope. His 53 took 93 balls, and was far from a slog-fest. Australia looked to be cruising toward stumps, but when Bailey got another harmless Broad bouncer with four overs to play, he failed to quite get all of it, giving Graeme Swann at square leg the chance to reel in an excellent leaping catch.
Clarke and Haddin made it through safely, the captain on the verge of yet another Test half-century, though Haddin also enjoyed a life due to an awful Michael Carberry fumble at backward point from Panesar. Unlike the other two tough chances, this one was embarrassing. Australia will start tomorrow at least 130 runs adrift of its first-innings target, with its senior batsman at the crease, but only its lower order to come. The match could not be more evenly poised, but if England can’t get the early wickets it needs tomorrow, today’s missed chances will linger long in its memories.