England Lions 23 for 0 (Moore 19*, Sayer 2*) trail Australia 340 for 9 dec (Watson 95, Hussey 65) by 317 runs
Shane Watson and Mike Hussey honed their form in contrasting styles, contributing a brace of half-centuries to a brisk total of 340 for 9 on the opening day of Australia's practice match against England Lions at Canterbury. A late-evening declaration gave Brett Lee just enough time to work up a sweat in a four-over new-ball burst before the close - his first appearance on the tour since picking up seven wickets (and a side strain) in the previous Lions fixture, at Worcester in July.
Sunday's second and final day will determine whether Lee can force his way into the reckoning for Thursday's Ashes showdown at The Oval. Today was all about Australia's batsmen, and the business end of their performance revolved around two contrasting sessions either side of lunch. The former was dominated by Watson, who rampaged to 92 not out from 80 balls against a profligate Lions attack that shipped 163 runs in 29 overs, despite claiming the wicket of Simon Katich in only the second over of the match.
The latter, however, belonged to the Lions, who denied Watson his century when he edged Liam Plunkett to the keeper - the first of four wickets in the session for 100 runs. Hussey contributed the bulk of Australia's total in this time, occupying the crease with reassuring solidity to make 65 from 101 balls, and he looked set for many more until he carved Chris Woakes loosely to point to become one of four sharp catches for Hampshire's Michael Carberry.
Shortly before the toss, the Lions made a surprise change to their team when Yorkshire's Joe Sayers stepped in for Jonathan Trott, who was withdrawn by the ECB ahead of his probable Test debut on Thursday. Having won the toss Jamie Dalrymple decided to bowl first, and that decision paid early dividends when Katich cut his fourth delivery loosely to Carberry at point, but that merely brought Ricky Ponting to the crease - to loud and, lately, unfamiliar applause from an appreciative Canterbury crowd. He responded with a pleasing cameo of 45 from 61 balls.
Ponting didn't have it all his own way at first. He got off the mark by inside-edging Kirby past the keeper for four, and was then jammed painfully on the gloves by a Plunkett lifter before thrashing airily through point in the same over. But it didn't take long for he and Watson to settle into their morning's work.
An otherwise tidy spell from the 19-year-old Harris was dented when Watson climbed into his seventh over, with three fours and a two, including a drive that burst through the fielder's half-formed defences at extra cover. Ponting then followed suit, by clubbing Plunkett's very next over for 17, including three fine cover-drives and a hook, as his first four-over spell was dispatched for a sorry 36 runs.
There were 14 boundaries in the first hour alone, as Australia reached drinks on 72 for 1, and it took the introduction of Woakes to restore some order, as Ponting snicked the final ball of his first over through to Steven Davies. Watson would then have been run out on 41 if a shy from the covers had hit, but he followed up by launching Woakes for six to move to 48, and in the next over brought up his half-century from 58 balls.
By lunch, Watson was really beginning to click through his gears, and needed just 22 balls for his next 42 runs. But the lunch break ruined his momentum, and he had managed only three more runs in four deliveries when he pushed indeterminately at Plunkett and departed, head bowed, for 95. Nevertheless, it was still his fourth half-century in consecutive innings since replacing Phillip Hughes at the top of Australia's order. It is clearly a role he relishes.
Watson's departure left the innings in the capable but under-performing hands of Hussey, who has endured some scratchy form on the tour so far. He and Marcus North added 37 low-key runs for the fourth wicket, before North - looking comfortable on 18 - carved violently to backward point, where Carberry took off with his right hand outstretched to pluck the chance out of thin air. By some distance, it was his finest take of the day.
Mitchell Johnson got off the mark with a low edge through the slips off Kirby, but it was the spinner Gary Keedy who ended his stay for 15, as he was beaten in the flight and clipped a simple lob to Carberry at midwicket. Undeterred, Hussey brought up his half-century from 87 balls with a reverse sweep off Keedy, and then repeated the dose two balls later. But, with tea approaching, he attacked a short ball from Kirby with too much relish, and Carberry once again was on hand to claim the catch at point.
Australia went to the break on 263 for 6, and the Lions sensed a swift finish when Lee was caught at slip by Dalrymple off Keedy's fifth ball of the session. But once again, Australia's tail showed some entertaining durability. Stuart Clark enjoyed himself in a 21-ball 23, smacking Keedy for six over cow corner before picking out Woakes at long-on from his next delivery, and though the stand-in wicketkeeper, Chris Hartley, managed only a single on his representative debut, Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle could not be separated in an untroubled tenth-wicket stand of 40.
By the close, the Lions openers were looking equally untroubled. Stephen Moore, who made a century against these opponents at Worcester, carved Lee past point twice in successive balls to hurry along to 19 from 24 deliveries, while Sayers - Trott's replacement - dropped anchor to finish on 2.