x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ashes: Australia lose their way after good chase of England's target

Visitors need 137 runs but have four wickets in hand as England sense victory going into the final day's play.

England's Graeme Swann and teammates celebrate the wicket of Australia's Steve Smith. Darren Staples / Reuters
England's Graeme Swann and teammates celebrate the wicket of Australia's Steve Smith. Darren Staples / Reuters

NOTTINGHAM // Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, is confident his side can chase down 137 runs to beat England in the first Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge.

England were scenting victory after claiming three late wickets to reduce Australia to 174 for six on a fluctuating fourth day.

The touring side, chasing 311 for victory, battled into a strong position on 161 for three before losing Clarke, Steve Smith and Phil Hughes in quick succession to tilt an extraordinary match back England’s way.

Brad Haddin, on 11, and Ashton Agar, one, will resume in the morning with Australia still needing 137 to win and the home team requiring four wickets.

Clarke believes 19-year-old Ashton Agar, who scored 98 in his first Test innings, will play a key role if Australia are to claim victory. “I’ll never give up, especially when we’ve got young Ashton Agar,” Clarke told Sky Sports. “He’s in really good form and batted beautifully in the first innings.

“We’ve also got the experienced head of Brad Haddin at the crease and the boys left to come in can certainly play a handy role so I’m still confident if we start well tomorrow we can still win this Test match.”

The New South Wales native is now focused on keeping England spinner Graeme Swann in check on a turning wicket.

He added: “There’s not much bounce and the ball’s quite soft so we need to bat for a long time and use the majority of the day.

“We need to play Swanny well. We’re seeing a bit more spin now as the wicket has deteriorated but there are two good players at the crease at the moment.”

Clarke also supported England bowler Stuart Broad’s decision not to walk on 47 when umpire Aleem Dar failed to spot a thick edge off Agar’s bowling on Friday.

Big-screen replays showed clear contact but Broad stood his ground given Australia had used up their two reviews.

“I think it’s up to him, there’s no doubt about it,” Clarke said.

“I’ve always believed the umpires are paid to make decisions. If every batter was going to walk when they hit the ball, we wouldn’t need umpires.”

Earlier, Ian Bell made 109 and Stuart Broad 65, stretching their important seventh-wicket partnership to 138 as England made 375 in their second innings. Bell and Broad, resuming on 326 for six, quickly reached the individual milestones their tenacious stand deserved.

Left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc got Australia’s day off to a bad start with a wild beamer which flew to the boundary and Broad then slashed James Pattinson for four to get to his half-century.

Bell pushed Starc for a single to post his 18th test century, a marathon effort of intense concentration lasting more than six hours.

Bell, 31, often criticised for failing to deliver under pressure, leapt up and punched the air after completing his run before raising his bat to all sides of the ground.

He talked of his pride after bringing up his century. “It’s a great feeling to score a Test match 100,” Bell told Sky Sports. “You talk about it in the dressing room and it means a lot to everyone in the 11. It’s a real proud moment.

“I certainly think in Ashes cricket it was [an achievement] and to play an innings like that in that situation, using some different skills on a slow pitch with a reverse ball, it was different and I really enjoyed it.

“With the ball reversing I was trying to play it as late as possible and the plan was to hit it as straight as possible and to time the ball short.”

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