Aussies close to Ashes tour game win

Australia are well placed to push for victory in the opening game of their Ashes tour, having reduced Kent to 8-237 at tea on day four.

Michael Clarke declared overnight at 4-322 in Canterbury, setting Kent a target of 550 in the four-day fixture that long ago became a glorified practice session.

Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris were unable to strike with the new ball, while a rain break and Daniel Bell-Drummond’s century also frustrated the visitors.

Bell-Drummond needed only 92 balls to reach three figures, most of the damage coming in two overs from Fawad Ahmed that cost 35 runs.

As rain started to fall in the second session it was Harris who trapped the opener lbw with a ball that kept low.

Harris grabbed another wicket when Shaun Marsh snared a sensational catch at gully to dismiss Sam Billings.

Steve Smith then got in on the act, dismissing Ben Harmison and Adam Ball.

Neither delivery was much to write home about, but the part-time legspinner had figures of 2-13 from his three overs.

Johnson found the edge of Adam Riley’s bat to claim his fifth wicket of the match, but the tourists were unable to run through the tail before tea.

Peter Siddle impressed the most in Sunday’s morning session, uprooting opener Joe Denly’s middle stump with a cracking delivery.

Australia next face Essex in Chelmsford, where national selectors will form a clearer view of the many challenging calls they must make before the Ashes starts in Cardiff on July

Openers Chris Rogers and Shaun Marsh were both among the runs against Kent and will be hard to separate.

Harris, Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all have strong claims when it comes to the three pace berths.

Mitch Marsh, who smashed a fantastic century on day three in Canterbury, is also a chance of displacing Watson as the side’s allrounder.

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