Michael Clarke and Marcus North have batted through the majority of day five of the third Ashes Test to force a draw, leaving the series 1-0 in England’s favour with two to play.
Clarke rode his luck to score an unbeaten hundred, after North just missed out on his ton, with the captains agreeing to call the game off directly after Clarke reached three figures in a day dominated by the bat.
Australia had started 25 runs behind England on the first inning at two for 88, but to England’s dismay their bowlers again failed to derive much at all in the way of swing through the air or cut off the pitch, as was the case in the previous evening. With strike bowler Andrew Flintoff obviously struggling with the long-term injuries that have caused him to announce his retirement after this series, the day came down to a question of whether the Australian batsmen could hold their nerve.
After the overnight pairing of Shane Watson and Michael Hussey added a further 49 runs in the first hour, the first over after the drinks break saw Watson (53) play a shot at a well-directed but straight delivery which produced a noise that had the umpire’s finger up for a catch behind. Unfortunately the replays showed Watson had hit his pad with the bat, not the ball, but such umpire errors punishing Australia have become standard practice in this series so it was not surprising.
Clarke strode to the crease but Hussey (64) was also out soon after nicking a straight ball through to the keeper. North then joined Clarke and neither player looked in much trouble against an attack that was not extracting anything unusual out of either the conditions or themselves.
The second session produced 121 runs with both batsmen starting to really wind up their shotmaking. In the final session, North in particular started flaying the bowling as his hundred neared, but as he was just a boundary short of his ton, North (96) played a loose shot past gully but James Anderson was able to leap athletically to his right and pluck an excellent one-handed catch to deny the Western Australian his third Test century.
Clarke, who was just as dashing it his stroke play, then had a few lives. He missed an Anderson delivery that clipped his off-stump on 92, with the bail refusing to fall. Then on 96 several overs later, he was caught at second slip off Ravi Bopara from a no ball. Finally Clarke (103 not out) was able to pull a Bopara delivery to teh boundary to bring up his ton and the teams trudged off.