Cricket: Australia fight back

By Richard Sydenham

LONDON - Michael Clarke scored 125 not out overnight to lead an Australian fightback on the fourth day of the second test, with England 208 runs in front yet requiring five more wickets to lead 1-0 in the Ashes series.

Having been set a world-record 522 to win after England declared at the start of the day in pursuit of its first test victory over Australia at Lord's since 1934, the visitors were 313-5 when bad light stopped play.

"When you play Australia you don't expect them to lie down and die," England offspinner Graeme Swann said. "We were on cloud nine at one time but Michael Clarke played beautifully.

"We never panicked but it was frustrating. We have a new ball still and everyone will be fit and firing in the morning. We need one more wicket and we are into the bowlers."

It was Clarke's 11th test hundred and he added 185 in an unbeaten sixth-wicket stand with Brad Haddin, who was on 80. Clarke batted for 257 minutes and hit 13 boundaries. Haddin had lasted for just over three hours and faced 126 balls.

"Michael took the game to England and showed his class as a test-match batsman," Australia coach Tim Nielsen said. "We have had two batsmen play out of their skins with their backs to the wall. They withstood everything England threw at them.

I'm very proud of them.

"We are very happy with the position we are in. We know if we play well (Monday) we will have a great opportunity to win the test match. We have never talked about saving the game."

Australia, seeking to retain the Ashes, was on the receiving end of three questionable umpiring decisions.

Hoping to surpass the previous world-record run chase of 418, Australia lost its first wicket on the 19th ball of the day when ever-threatening fast bowler Andrew Flintoff had Simon Katich caught at gully for 6.

TV replays showed Flintoff had overstepped at the bowling crease and a no-ball should have been called by umpire Rudi Koertzen, standing in his 100th test.

Phillip Hughes, dropped on 16 by Flintoff off James Anderson, made only a run more when he edged Flintoff to Strauss at first slip. Hughes reluctantly walked off after Strauss claimed the catch, but his captain Ricky Ponting told him to wait.

The umpires discussed the incident and Billy Doctrove confirmed from square leg that the catch was taken cleanly, and therefore replays were not used. Magnified slow motion replays failed to confirm the catch was taken cleanly.

Ponting looked annoyed. His teammate Nathan Hauritz claimed a catch against England's Ravi Bopara on Saturday and that time the batsman was reprieved when the third umpire was called and studied inconclusive replays.

Ponting added one to his lunchtime score of 38 before he chopped on to his stumps trying to cut a ball from Stuart Broad that did not bounce as he expected.

The score was then 78-3 and became 120-4 when Mike Hussey was adjudged on 27 to have edged offspinner Graeme Swann to slip Paul Collingwood. Replays suggested Hussey didn't touch the ball, his bat instead flicking the ground as the ball spun away.

Strauss then turned to his most threatening bowler, Flintoff, who instantly struck Clarke on the helmet with a vicious bouncer.

Marcus North hung around for 25 minutes with Clarke until he missed an arm-ball from Swann that bowled him between bat and pad for 6.

Clarke ignored the intimidating target facing Australia and reached his 50 off just 58 balls, before grafting his way to his century in a further 101 deliveries.

Clarke and Haddin frustrated England and when the new ball was due on 80 overs, and with the floodlights switched on, Strauss called his team together for a pep talk, no doubt reminding his players of the historic achievement awaiting them.

The third test starts July 30 at Edgbaston.

SHORT SCORECARD:

England, 1st innings: 425
Australia, 1st innings: 215
England, 2nd innings: 311/6 declared

Australia, 2nd innings:
P Hughes, c Strauss b Flintoff 17
S Katich, c Pietersen b Flintoff 6
R Ponting, b Broad 38
M Hussey, c Collingwood b Swann 27
M Clarke, not out 125
M North, b Swann 6
B Haddin, not out 80

TOTAL: (for 5 wickets): 313/5 (target: 522)

Bowling: J Anderson 0 for 81, A Flintoff 2 for 49, S Broad 1 for 32, G Onions 0 for 50, G Swann 2 for 62, P Collingwood 0 for 29.

END OF DAY 4.

- AP

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