Hayden finds his feet
Australia 374 for 6 dec (Hayden 136, Clarke 121) lead Northamptonshire 29 for 2 (Roberts 12*) by 345 runs
Matthew Hayden struck a timely century for Australia to find form ahead of the fourth Ashes Test on Thursday, on a day dominated by Australia at Northampton. Hayden shared a partnership of 206 with Michael Clarke, who struck a brisk 121, as the tourists declared on 376 for 6. Northamptonshire then lost two wickets before the close of play, with just 29 on the board. Shaun Tait was chosen for the tourists ahead of Jason Gillespie, who seems likely to miss out on playing in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Northamptonshire had the Australians in trouble earlier in the day. Justin Langer, who is in excellent form, was dismissed for just 1, while Simon Katich, promoted to No.3, yet again failed to make a substantial contribution. He fell to Steffan Jones for 19. With Damien Martyn also succumbing to Jones, Australia were stumbling at 69 for 3.
Clarke and Hayden's partnership steadied the ship, however, and Australia's selectors will be encouraged by both of their performances. Hayden has been particularly short of form throughout the Ashes series, and Clarke was in immense pain with a recurrence of an old back injury in the previous Test at Old Trafford. Between them, Hayden and Clarke hit 35 fours and nine sixes as Northants' bowlers were made to suffer, although Ben Phillips's figures of 2 for 50 from 20 overs represented a controlled spell of bowling.
An hour before the close of play, Australia declared to leave Northants a tricky period to survive. Their bowlers were immediately rewarded, as Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee each took a wicket, although Lee was expensive in his four overs, conceding 17 runs, to leave Northamtonshire on 29 for 2.