Warner, Clarke take Australia to sniffing distance of win

By Indo Asian News Service | Saturday, November 23, 2013 | 7:30:04 PM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

Brisbane, Nov 23 (IANS) Centuries by David Warner and skipper Michael Clarke pushed Australia towards a 1-0 lead in the Ashes Test series as England are left with a mammoth task of chasing 537 runs with eight wickets in the first Test at the Gabba.

Brisbane, Nov 23 (IANS) Centuries by David Warner and skipper Michael Clarke pushed Australia towards a 1-0 lead in the Ashes Test series as England are left with a mammoth task of chasing 537 runs with eight wickets in the first Test at the Gabba.

After the third day's play, England were 24 for two in the second innings, while chasing 561.

Michael Carberry (0) and Jonathan Trott (9) perished in the final half hour leaving England's hopes of staving off defeat fly in the face of current form as well as ancient history.

In more than 130 years of Test cricket, the most any team has managed in a fourth innings to post a win was the West Indies' 418-7 against Steve Waugh's Australians in Antigua in 2003.

Earlier in the day, Warner (124) and Clarke (113) led the charge with some fine batting that helped Australia declare their second innings at 401 for seven.

Clarke's tactical acumen in the field was integral in ensuring Australia began the third day with a formidable lead, he found himself under pressure when he arrived at the crease after his team lost two quick wickets in the day's first half-hour.

His capacity to handle short-pitched bowling, and the fact that England spearhead Stuart Broad had captured his wicket six times in his past eight innings meant the state of the game was rendered a sub-plot to the personal battle about to be waged.

And while England have been increasingly airbrushed from selected Australian newspapers, they appear to have continued reading them and clearly came to believe the notion they held an iron-clad mental stranglehold over the Australian skipper.

It's the only plausible explanation as to why Clarke's rival captain Alastair Cook would happily gift runs to a man whose Test average since taking over the helm exceeds 67 and whose team was by that stage 237 runs in the ascendancy.

It took just two deliveries for the first bouncer to arrive but, as was the case for much of the day, Chris Tremlett's offering sailed benignly past.

When it came Stuart Broad's turn to take up the fight, Clarke seized the initiative by pulling the initial short ball calmly and assuredly to the mid-wicket fence then going after the next even more ferociously with a swivel pull-shot that yielded the same dividend to fine leg.

From there, his innings blossomed as his confidence soared.

With Warner scampering every available run and providing a double-barrelled counter-attack that ground England's bowlers and morale into the drying Gabba pitch, the game was snatched brutally beyond the tourists' grasp.

Once Warner reached his deserved century he set about adding psychological as well as scoreboard damage, unwrapping an array of strokes including a brutal on-drive for six from a flagging Broad before he was caught behind trying an ambitious dab.

But his departure failed to slow Clarke whose 25th Test century, and sixth on the productive turf of the Gabba, arrived with a finessed push in front of square leg and brought about an unrestrained show of elation and relief from the Australian skipper.

The Australians then made merry against the second new ball, plundering 91 runs from 15 overs during which Brad Haddin crowned his 50th Test by becoming just the fourth Australian wicketkeeper (after Jack Blackham, Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist) to reach 50 in both innings of a Test.

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