Ashes: Captain Clarke’s century creates Australian optimism

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After a dismal first two Tests for Australia, the opening day at Old Trafford went some way to erasing those painful memories from Trent Bridge and Lord’s.

Michael Clarke’s side won the toss and opted to bat, a good choice seeing as Australia finished the day on 303-3 and are 7/4 to win the Test after the captain’s splendid knock of 125 not out.

Along with Chris Rogers (84) and Steve Smith (70),  Australia frustrated England throughout the afternoon and evening sessions, with the hosts 7/1 to win the Test that would seal them an Ashes series victory.

Stuart Broad endured a trying day, finishing with 0-80, while Jimmy Anderson proved surprisingly underwhelming to end the day on a similar figure of 0-72.

Bresnan picked off Watson for 19, while Swann claimed Rogers LBW and a controversial review of Khawaja for a single run.

But Clarke was at his sublime finest, showcasing excellent shot selection around the pitch in a knock that included 17 fours, while he formed a partnership of 150 with Smith to see out the opening day’s action.

In doing so they dented many people’s hopes of an England whitewash, with the Tourists looking cool and confident in Manchester, a world away from their batting troubles in the opening two Tests.

England boast plenty down the order who can produce a similar score with the bat, but first they must find a way to dispose of Clarke and Smith who have so far dealt with anything Alastair Cook’s men have thrown at them.

An England win isn’t out of the question by any means, but they’ll need Anderson and Broad to find some magic if they are to remove Clark and Smith sooner rather than later on a crucial second day at Old Trafford.

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