Courageous Clarke forces draw
England suffered a final day of frustration at Edgbaston as Australia drew the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
England suffered a final day of frustration at Edgbaston as Australia delivered a defiant display to save the third Test and remain in contention for the Ashes.
Michael Clarke's 103 not out and 96 from Marcus North helped Australia withstand 84.2 overs on the final day to reach 375 for five at the close and finish 262 runs ahead.
Starting the final day as favourites to claim victory and secure a 2-0 series lead – their first in the Ashes since 1986-7 and first on home soil since 1977 – England were confronted by an Australian side determined to spoil the party.
Spurred on by the prospect of a famous win, queues formed before the gates opened to ensure a packed Edgbaston after 8,000 tickets were sold in advance and 11,000 more sold online overnight.
But the crowd were denied the drama and tension of the tense two-run triumph four years ago by a visiting side intent on batting out a draw and denying England's bowlers any rest before the fourth Test in the npower series at Headingley on Friday.
Resuming 25 runs adrift on 88 for two, Australia faced the prospect of 98 overs from an England attack which had dismissed them for under 300 in successive Tests.
However, this time it was the England bowlers who looked impotent as Clarke marked his 50th Test with his 12th century.
Having terrorised Australia with their ability to swing the ball earlier in the match, Graham Onions and James Anderson struggled to have the same impact.
The only time England looked capable of victory was before lunch when they claimed two wickets to leave Australia just 48 runs ahead on 161 for four, and two new batsmen in Clarke and North at the crease.
England were frustrated for over three hours while Clarke and North forged a match-saving 185-run stand.
Overnight batsmen Shane Watson and Michael Hussey had set the tone for Australia's resistance by forging an 85-run stand, which was not broken until the 16th over of the day.
Drafted in as a makeshift opener following Phillip Hughes' struggles against the short ball, Watson responded by hitting 62 in the first innings and followed up with another half-century today.
He bravely resisted a hostile early spell from all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, including being hit in the groin area and on the left elbow, but fell in the first over after drinks when he finally mistimed an attempted drive and edged Anderson behind.
England's optimism was boosted by Stuart Broad, under pressure for his place at Headingley following a disappointing series with the ball, striking four overs before lunch when Hussey also edged behind pushing outside off-stump.
Such optimistic was soon punctured by the discipline and resolve demonstrated by both Clarke and North during their 209 minutes of defiance.
Neither batsmen gave much encouragement to England's attack, but with the new ball approaching England captain Andrew Strauss almost pulled off a master stroke with the introduction of Ravi Bopara into the attack.
Bopara almost struck with his second ball when Clarke, then on 38, pulled straight to Strauss at short mid-wicket only for the captain to miss the opportunity with Australia then 106 runs ahead.
Australia barely gave another opportunity until North, who had progressed to within four runs of his third century in his first five Tests, drove loosely at Broad and Anderson took a brilliant diving catch at second slip.
North would have been only the fourth Australian to achieve the feat after Arthur Morris, Sir Don Bradman and Hussey, but by then his contribution had already secured Australia's safety.
The only issue still to be settled was whether Clarke could succeed where his partner had failed and reach three figures, and he was fortunate to receive two reprieves in the 90s.
He was on 92 when Broad shaved his off-stump but somehow failed to dislodge the bails, and was then caught at slip by Anderson off a no-ball from Bopara.
But he brought up his century in style, pulling Bopara for his 14th boundary to reach three figures and end the match with both sides heading to Headingley still with an interest in the series.
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