England hold 271-run lead at tea

Michael Clarke plucked a spectacular catch, but England remained well and truly on top of the Ashes opener at tea on day three in Cardiff.

Clarke’s one-handed grab, combined with some outstanding bowling from Australia, meant the hosts crashed to 3-73 on Friday.

At tea they’d recovered to be 3-149, boasting a 271-run lead.

Ian Bell and Joe Root shared an unbeaten partnership worth 76 runs to bat England into a position of complete dominance.

With seven sessions remaining, Alastair Cook’s men are incredibly well placed to go 1-0 up in the five-Test series.

England have only lost one Ashes Test at home after gaining a first-innings lead of more than 100 runs.

Cook’s field placings, coupled with disciplined and dazzling bowling, meant Australia were rolled for 308 in Friday’s morning session.

Shane Watson was trapped lbw, raising further questions about his place in the XI, amid a collapse of 6-50.

Australia needed to bowl incredibly well to stay in the contest.

They did.

Mitchell Starc was clearly restricted by an ankle injury he sustained on day one, but started with three maidens and the scalp of Cook.

Josh Hazlewood was also lively, dismissing Gary Ballance caught behind in the first over after lunch.

Hazlewood almost dismissed Adam Lyth in the same over, with the visitors reviewing the not-out verdict after a confident lbw appeal.

Replays looked promising for Hazlewood, but ball-tracking technology suggested it was ‘umpire’s call’.

Lyth and Ian Bell counter-punched superbly, bringing up a 50-run stand in 49 balls.

The introduction of Nathan Lyon curbed England’s momentum and the offspinner was rewarded with the scalp of Lyth.

It was as much Clarke’s wicket as Lyon’s.

The captain flung himself to the right and the ball somehow lodged between his thumb and forefinger.

However, Bell and Root continued to score quickly and reasonably freely.

Mitchell Johnson currently has match figures of 0-145.

In a 67-Test career, Johnson has only gone wicket-less in two matches.

The full extent of Starc’s ankle injury is yet to be revealed, but he will be doing well to play at Lord’s next week given there is only a three-day break between the first and second Test.

“This is a real concern for the Australians,” Ricky Ponting said on Sky Sports.

“There’s obviously something going on there with the ankle.”

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