England v Australia, 1st npower Test, Cardiff, 3rd day July 10, 2009

Clarke hopes for fair weather

Australia are praying for the forecast rain to avoid Cardiff over the rest of the match as they plan a big lead in the hope of grinding out a first-Test victory. Wet weather is forecast throughout Saturday and the visitors hold a 44-run buffer after finishing the third day in the excellent position of 479 for 5 following centuries to Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich.

"If the rain stays away I definitely believe we can get a result," the vice-captain Michael Clarke said. "[Saturday] is a really important day for us. If we can make another 100, or 150 runs, that wicket on day five will continue to spin, and the bounce will be more inconsistent."

Nathan Hauritz, who took 3 for 95 in the first innings, has out-performed Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who were less effective than Paul Collingwood when he came on to deliver some off-cutters. "Haury bowled much slower than the England spinners, generally got a lot more spin and bounce," Clarke said. "We'll wait to see what happens, but I believe there is enough spin out there."

Ricky Ponting and Andrew Strauss agreed before the series that the lights could be turned on for bad light and they were used for the first time in a Test in Britain, allowing an extra six overs before stumps. That period, which followed a rain delay of two hours and three minutes, gained England a wicket when Clarke hooked at Stuart Broad and was caught behind for 83.

When the umpires offered the batsmen the light Strauss was unhappy and it was hard to see how the conditions had deteriorated. "It was frustrating to come off, there was a new batsman in so we wanted to carry on," James Anderson said. "[Andrew Flintoff] had a decent speed and Stuart was bowling with good control, so we would have liked to stay on."

Clarke said the conditions were fine when he was batting, but he exited in the third-last over of the day. "The ruling is once the natural light is gone and the lights take over from the natural light, [the umpires] can offer it," Clarke said. "When I was out there the light was okay, I have no excuses for my dismissal. I just found out it was the first time it was used in Test cricket in England, so lock me down for the first wicket."

Did Clarke want to come out for the final period? "Yeah, of course we did. The wicket is good to bat on and we're in a fantastic position. We were told there were 12 overs left in the day and Marcus North and I saw it as an opportunity to get a few more runs on the board."

England will aim to wrap up Australia's innings as swiftly as possible on the fourth day, weather permitting. "We're not thinking about a draw now," Anderson said. "There's a big first session first thing in the morning, so we've got to think about getting those five wickets quickly."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo