Clarke hundred sees Australia to draw

BIRMINGHAM: Michael Clarke's unbeaten century guided Australia to a draw against England in the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston here on Monday.

The result kept Australia's defence of the Ashes alive, although it also meant England remained 1-0 up in the five-match series ahead of the fourth Test at Headingley, which starts on Friday. The Australian vice-captain was 103 not out in a second innings total of 375 for five, a lead of 262, when a draw was agreed in the fifth day's final session without England needing to bat again in this rain-marred match.

Clarke together with North (96) shared a fifth-wicket stand of 185 that made the game safe. The duo had come together with Australia just 48 runs in front at 161 for four and still in danger of defeat after Michael Hussey was caught behind for 64 off paceman Stuart Broad before lunch.

North was in sight of his second century of the series when he was brilliantly caught right-handed by a leaping James Anderson in the gully off Broad to end a 159-ball innings featuring 15 fours. But Clarke, who made 136 in England's 115-run second Test win at Lord's, pressed on to a hundred in 192 balls in nearly five hours with the match ending when he pulled occasional medium-pacer Ravi Bopara for his 14th four to go to three figures.

Clarke did have two lucky breaks in the 90s. On 92, a ball from Broad flicked the outside of his off-stump without disturbing the bails. And Clarke was caught by Anderson at slip on 96 off a Bopara no-ball. He'd previously been dropped on 38 off a difficult chance by England captain Andrew Strauss.

That England had a shot at winning was remarkable given that, in effect, two days' play had been lost to bad weather, including Saturday's wash-out. But the swing that had been so potent for them earlier in the match proved elusive and, in good batting conditions, England's attack struggled.

Clarke, whose footwork was a feature of his innings, stiffened Australia's resistance with several driven boundaries off Graham Onions. And with Australia 203 for four, 90 ahead, Andrew Strauss turned to inspirational all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who had already starred here with the bat.

However, there was a worrying moment for England when Flintoff, who has been struggling with a right knee injury, saw his left foot give way underneath him as he fell in his delivery stride. Fortunately for England, Flintoff -- the bowling star at Lord's -- continued his spell although in this match he did not take a single wicket.

Strauss brought on occasional medium-pacer Bopara and his second ball almost yielded a wicket when Clarke, on 38, pulled fiercely only for the captain to drop the tough chance at short mid-wicket with Australia 106 ahead. And that was as close as England came to reigniting their victory bid with the new ball not providing any breakthroughs.

Left-hander Hussey (18 not out overnight) fell to Broad's 12th ball of the innings -- and first from around the wicket -- when he edged to wicket-keeper Matthew Prior after two-and-a-half hours at the crease. Earlier, Anderson -- with his sixth ball on Monday -- had Shane Watson caught behind for 53. It was the makeshift opener's second fifty of the match after he'd come in for dropped left-hander Phillip Hughes.