England v Australia, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 5th day

Clarke and North put Australia safe

The Bulletin by Alex Brown at Edgbaston

August 3, 2009

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Australia 263 (Watson 62, Anderson 5-80, Onions 4-58) and 375 for 5 (Watson 53, Hussey 64, Clarke 103*, North 96) drew with England 376 (Strauss 69, Bell 53, Flintoff 74, Broad 55, Hilfenhaus 4-109)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Michael Clarke jumps into a neat pull, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 5th day, August 3, 2009
Michael Clarke continued his fine form with another important second-innings century © Getty Images
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After a rain-affected draw at Edgbaston, in which England's push for victory fell as flat as the fifth day pitch, the question now stands: who takes the momentum into Headingley? The temptation is to give the nod to England given their 1-0 series advantage and flashes of brilliance between the spells of drizzle in Birmingham. But, on closer inspection, the matter may not be so clear-cut.

Australia will take tremendous confidence from their second-innings batting performance, in which three batsmen passed 50 and one, Michael Clarke, a stoic century in his 50th Test to limit England to just five wickets from 112 overs. Shane Watson's returns of 62 and 53 in his first Test as opener will prove particularly encouraging as will the final-day efforts of Michael Hussey (64) and Marcus North (96), both of whom were in need of a confidence boost.

The Australians will also be buoyed at the possibility that Mitchell Johnson's nightmare might just have been confined to the month of July. Johnson is clearly not back to his wrecking-ball ways from South Africa, but he did manage to make the necessary adjustments to his wrist position to allow him to rediscover the at-the-body line and subtle swing that has made him so effective in past series.

England clearly have grounds for optimism, too. Were it not for the five-and-a-half sessions lost to rain, bad light and the water-logged outfield, they might have better capitalised on their 113-run first-innings advantage. That lead was established after James Anderson and Graham Onions befuddled Australia's batsmen with prodigious aerial movement on Friday, and with Headingley considered among the better swinging grounds in the country, England will hope to probe Australia's barely-healed wounds from Friday.

The hosts will also be satisfied by the manner in which they covered for Kevin Pietersen, but Andrew Flintoff is looming as a major concern. The England allrounder, who is understood to have had two further pain-killing injections to his troublesome right knee prior to this match, fell awkwardly on his left ankle when delivering the final ball of his 13th over. Flintoff required the better part of 30 seconds to climb back to his feet and appeared in significant discomfort, but managed to bowl two more overs in the session. His condition will be monitored with only three days between the third and fourth Tests.

Australia signed off the match with Clarke notching his second century of the campaign and usurping Strauss as the highest run-scorer in the series. For the satistically inclined, it also took his Test average above 50 for the first time since 2005 - and this, in his 50th Test. The pragmatists, however, will note that his unbeaten 103 was not so much important for the runs scored as the 192 balls it soaked up, denying England any chance of forcing a result.

Unlike the draw in Cardiff, where every ball of the final session was an angst-ridden affair, the Edgbaston Test concluded in anti-climax with part-timers Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara in operation and Australia's batsmen scoring at will. Clarke was fortunate to have survived a Stuart Broad delivery that clipped the bail and a subsequent catch off a Bopara no-ball, but eventually raised his 12th career ton with a pull to the boundary and look to the dressing rooms, whereupon he was summoned in by Ricky Ponting.

Clarke had earlier combined with North for a 185-run fifth-wicket stand that effectively ended England's hopes for victory. Despite the heavy overhead conditions, neither Anderson nor Onions could convince the suddenly stubborn Duke to swing, making life easier for the Australian batsmen.

The brisk tempo of previous sessions was absent, as Australia's batsmen sought to grind the life out of the match. First Watson and Hussey, then Clarke and North, batted with patience and caution in their attempt to deny England an inflated series lead ahead of the Headingley Test. Watson and Hussey showed steely intent from the outset and weathered painful blows to the body from Flintoff, remaining unflustered in this most pressurised of situations. Flintoff attempted to engage both batsmen in verbal jousts but both quelled their aggressive instincts and refused to bite. Theirs was a mission of survival and both succeeded in navigating a path through a testing first hour of play.

Flintoff, for all his intimidatory powers, strayed short too often while Swann failed to settle upon a consistent length - but given the respective situations in which Watson and Hussey found themselves at the crease, both could have been well pleased with their morning contributions.

Having previously batted no higher than No. 6 in Test cricket, and with a sub-five average opening for Queensland, Watson was in the crosshairs of both a sceptical Australian public and England's bowlers from the moment he marked centre on Thursday. He did not disappoint. His fluent first innings total of 62 was complemented by a redoubtable 53 in the second; the latter innings terminated when Anderson, in his first over of the morning, found the outside edge with a delivery that subtly straightened.

Hussey, desperate to atone for his first innings duck, played a more aggressive hand, striking six boundaries to advance to his second half-century of the series. But, like Watson, his stay at the crease would end soon after his arrival at the milestone.

Stuart Broad's introduction to the attack in the 51st over might not have done much for his confidence, but the allrounder immediately took the attack to the Australians with an angling delivery that brushed the outside edge of Hussey on 64. The dismissal brought the Edgbaston crowd momentarily back to life, however all were promptly subdued as Clarke and North carried their bats deep into the final session.

North was the only other batsman to fall on the final day, to a brilliant, diving catch by Anderson in the gully off the bowling of Broad. Anderson's spectacular effort denied North a third Test century from five matches, but could not revive England's hopes of victory.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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