Kent 203 for 5 (Key 87, Johnson 3-42) trail Australians 507 for 8 decl (Marsh 114, Smith 111, Rogers 84, Clarke 56) by 304 runs

Allrounder slot remains an issue for Australia
Allrounder slot remains an issue for Australia

Where Mitchell Johnson signalled his intent to again dent England with spells of speed and venom on a Canterbury pitch that offered him little help, neither Shane Watson nor Mitchell Marsh were able to push ahead as the allrounder most likely to take a pivotal place in Australia's first Test XI.

After Steven Smith surged ominously to his first - and surely not last - century of this tour, Watson and Marsh both had the opportunity to make a substantial score against tired bowlers and on a blameless pitch. Each had their moments, but tallies of 21 and 30 were of the unconvincing kind - not least because Australia's tail-enders have been bettering those starts with increasing regularity.

The two dismissals were characteristic. Watson lathered a short ball square of the wicket but close enough to Joe Denly for him to dive brilliantly and pluck the catch, leaving the 34-year-old to wander off with the pained look of a latter-day King Lear. Marsh looked balanced and powerful during his stay, but grew overconfident enough to swish across the line at Matt Hunn and lose his off stump.

Such errors of judgment continue to frustrate the coach Darren Lehmann, who has made a virtue of mistakes being fine so long as they are not repeated. Nevertheless he is wedded to the concept of choosing an allrounder as the team's fifth bowler, and further dead heats will likely mean that Watson keeps his place for Cardiff.

Johnson took the new ball alongside Ryan Harris, and immediately set about staking his claim for one of three pace bowling places in the first Investec Test. In a swift first over he accounted for the promising opener Daniel Bell-Drummond, first pushing him back onto the stumps then pinning him lbw with a full delivery that swung back just enough to have Nigel Llong raising his finger.

At the other end Harris landed his first ball on the postage stamp around off stump, but still looked to be finding the zip of his very best work. Lehmann has stated that Harris still looks "short of a gallop", and needs some more overs before being ready for Test duty, and that looked the case here. Peter Siddle replaced him at the Pavilion End, bowling sturdily and eventually coaxing an edge from Denly after a pesky stand with Rob Key.

It is 13 years since Key appeared down under as a plucky middle-order batsman who did rather better than a series average of 17 would suggest, and he worked diligently to provide some sort of resistance against Australia's attack. Fawad Ahmed flighted the odd delivery teasingly but was also taken for runs, and it was something of a surprise when Key, on 87, swatted the legspinner to midwicket.

Key's exit was the signal for a renewed burst of pace from Johnson, as Sam Northeast then Ben Harmison were undone by his speed and direction. Northeast edged behind while trying to leave a lifter, and Harmison was beaten for pace and movement to be comprehensively bowled.

That left Sam Billings and Adam Ball to hold on until the close, thwarting the efforts of Mitchell Marsh to add a wicket to his earlier batting cameo. Watson was curiously unused as a bowler, leaving open the question of where he now sits in the scheme of things.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig