Australia batted throughout a rain-interrupted third day of the first Ashes Test against England to take a 44-run first-innings lead over the hosts on Friday. After floodlights had been turned on for the first time in a British Test,Australia reached 479 for five in their first innings in reply to Englands 435. Captain Ricky Ponting led from the front during a sun-baked morning session,reaching 150 before he dragged a Monty Panesar delivery on to his stumps. His deputy Michael Clarke took over with a delightful 83 and Marcus North showed the benefit of his stints with five English counties to mark his Ashes debut with a thoroughly competent 54 not out.
The pair added 143 for the fifth wicket and England will now be batting to save the match after a dispiriting day for their bowlers. James Anderson raised Englands hopes briefly having taken the second new ball 30 minutes into the day after Australia resumed on 249 for one. A late inswinger accounted for Simon Katich (122),who spent more than five hours at the crease and Michael Hussey did not linger,edging Anderson to Matt Prior behind the stumps after scoring three. Ponting,who had reached his 38th Test century on Thursday evening,drove crisply through the covers and hooked an Andrew Flintoff no-ball for six over a leaping Panesar at fine-leg.
There seemed no obvious reason why he should ever get out until he stepped back to hit Panesar through the off-side and the ball ricocheted off his bat and clattered into the stumps.Three wickets had fallen in the space of 63 balls for 22 runs and with Australia 331 for four,England seemed to be coming back in the game.
Clarke and North,however,ensured there were no further alarms for the Australians by seeing through the afternoon session. North got off the mark with a deft on-drive for four and Clarke played a series of delightful drives and the shot of the day when he used his feet to loft Panesar over long-off for six. Panesar got the occasional delivery to turn but Graeme Swann,who has superseded the left-armer as Englands number one spinner,was ineffective.
Clarke leaned back to pull Flintoff through mid-wicket for four to bring up the 100-run partnership and the teams went to tea with Australia 463 for four. The sky darkened during the break and steady rain drove the players off the field 12 minutes into the final session. After play resumed under the lights Stuart Broad took his first wicket of the innings when Clarke edged an attempted hook to give wicketkeeper Matt Prior his third catch. But after half an hour the umpires consulted again and the players left the field for the final time.
England vs Australia,Cardiff,Day Three
England (first innings) 435
Australia (first innings) (overnight 249/1)
P Hughes c Prior b Flintoff 36
S Katich lbw b Anderson 122
R Ponting b Panesar 150
M Hussey c Prior b Anderson 3
M Clarke c Prior b Broad 83
M North not out 54
B Haddin not out 4
Extras (b 8,lb 12,w 2,nb 5) 27
Total (five wickets; 139 overs) 479
FoW: 1-60 (Hughes),2-299 (Katich),3-325 (Hussey),4-331 (Ponting),5-474 (Clarke)