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Clarke, North shine as Aussies lead

AUSTRALIA overhauled England's first innings total of 435 yesterday during a productive second session on the third day of the first Ashes test in Cardiff, Wales.

Michael Clarke batted beautifully throughout with a string of handsome shots to reach 70 not out at tea. He was ably supported by Marcus North who marked his Ashes debut by reaching his half-century just before the interval.

Australia was 458 for four after losing three wickets in the opening session.

Clarke drove Stuart Broad to the extra-cover boundary and off-drove Monty Panesar over long-off for six without obvious effort to bring up the 50 partnership.

He brought up his half-century with a driven four off Graeme Swann and pulled Andrew Flintoff sweetly through mid-wicket to give Australia the first innings lead.

North swept Panesar for four and took further boundaries off Swann with a square-cut and a sweep. Two mistimed sweeps by North off Panesar which fell safely in the fine-leg area were the only obvious blemishes over two hours.

Swann, who had come into the match as England's form bowler after impressive displays in India and the Caribbean, suffered in particular. The off-spinner conceded 86 runs from 28 wicketless overs after bowling five consecutive maidens on Thursday.

James Anderson took two wickets in 14 deliveries with the second new ball in the pre-lunch session to dismiss Simon Katich (122) and Michael Hussey (3).

Captain Ricky Ponting, whose second wicket partnership with Katich had turned the match in Australia's favor, was out for 150 when he dragged a Panesar delivery on to his stumps.

In Kingstown, St Vincent, persistent showers restricted Bangladesh and a new-look West Indies to just over an hour's play on the first day of the first test on Thursday.

Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes gave Bangladesh a solid platform with an unbroken stand of 42 in between the showers.

Imrul struck three fours in an unbeaten 26 while fellow left-hander Tamim hit one boundary in 14 not out.

The morning session was lost to the weather and play began only after lunch after new Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza won the toss and chose to bat.

West Indies, forced to choose a replacement squad after the original 13-man squad chose to boycott the series due to contract wrangles with the West Indies Cricket Board, provided seven players with their first test caps.

Batsmen Dale Richards, Omar Phillips and Travis Dowlin, wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton, fast bowler Kemar Roach and spinners Ryan Austin and Nikita Miller made their debuts.

Only captain Floyd Reifer, fast bowler Tino Best and allrounders Darren Sammy and Dave Bernard Jr had previously appeared in tests.


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