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BIRMINGHAM, England - Australia made a confident start in the third Ashes test against England as Shane Watson's unbeaten fifty lifted them to 126 for one on a rain-disrupted first day yesterday.

The start of the match was delayed by six hours but Watson, recalled in place of Phillip Hughes, and Simon Katich played a series of crisp strokes to seize the initiative against a subdued England seam attack.

Katich fell for 46 to off-spinner Graeme Swann but Watson had moved on to 62 at the close, including 10 fours, with his captain Ricky Ponting on 17.

Australia, looking to level the series following their 115-run defeat in the last test at Lord's, suffered a blow when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, named in the side at the toss, was ruled out with a finger injury sustained in practice.

The Australians asked England for permission to replace Haddin and the hosts agreed, allowing Graham Manou to make his debut.

Ponting won the toss and Watson was promoted up the order to partner Katich, immediately looking comfortable in an unfamiliar role.

He almost played on a delivery from Andrew Flintoff but welcomed Graham Onions to the attack with a perfect off-drive for four to bring up Australia's 50. - Reuters