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August 4, 2009

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Australia's Clarke, North dig in to defy England

AUSTRALIA'S Michael Clarke and Marcus North compiled a feisty century partnership to frustrate England on the final day of the third Ashes test in Birmingham yesterday.

The Australians took tea on 293 for four, 180 runs ahead with one session remaining and the match looked certain to end in a draw which would leave England 1-0 up in the series with two matches left.

Clarke was unbeaten on 73 at the interval with North on 64 and the pair have added 132 runs for the fifth wicket.

Resuming on 172 for four after lunch, Clarke and North mixed watchful defence with crisp attacking strokes to the boundary and the England attack struggled for inspiration.

Clarke was dropped on 38 by England captain Andrew Strauss at mid-wicket, a very difficult chance from a full-blooded pull off medium-pacer Ravi Bopara.

England had a scare when allrounder Andrew Flintoff tumbled to the ground after slipping in his delivery stride.

Television replays appeared to show he twisted his ankle but England's injury-prone talisman dusted himself down and resumed the attack.

Earlier, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson shared a gritty third-wicket partnership of 85 in the morning.

After resuming on 88 for two, Watson and Hussey survived the first hour with few alarms against the seam attack of Graham Onions and Flintoff.

Watson received a painful blow on the elbow from a Flintoff bouncer but he batted calmly and reached his second half-century of the match in the unfamiliar role of opener. His fifty included nine fours and it was a surprise when, on 53, he drove loosely in James Anderson's first over of the day and gave wicketkeeper Matt Prior a simple catch.


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