Spark in Ashes for Aussies

AUSTRALIA's draw in the third Test has exposed weakness in England's bowling attack and given Ricky Ponting's men a fighting chance of retaining the Ashes, Australian media said yesterday.

AUSTRALIA's draw in the third Test has exposed weakness in England's bowling attack and given Ricky Ponting's men a fighting chance of retaining the Ashes, Australian media said yesterday.

Australian commentators hailed a 185-run fifth-wicket partnership between Michael Clarke and Marcus North that prevented England taking a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Joe O'Shea said the draw "keeps the series well and truly alive".

Greg Matthews, in his blog for Ashes broadcaster SBS, said England's attack looked "a bit toothless" when conditions did not produce swing and talisman Andrew Flintoff was not firing due to injury niggles: "If the ball doesn't swing England look average, especially with Flintoff on one leg."

The Australian's Ben Dorries acknowledged Clarke "had more lives than a cat" on his way to an unbeaten 103 but credited the vice captain with saving the match and giving Australia some momentum.

"Clarke continued the form that has made him Australia's leading run scorer this Ashes. with another triple-figure score," he wrote.

He was also full of praise for Shane Watson, who was called on to replace dropped opener Phillip Hughes at short notice and received bruising treatment as England's quicks struggled for a breakthrough.

But Malcolm Conn in Sydney's Daily Telegraph questioned Australian skipper Ponting's state of mind after he was dismissed for five in the second innings.

"It was his second poor Test after a majestic 150 in Cardiff and left the nagging feeling that he carries so much with this inexperienced team that maybe, just maybe, it is starting to wear the 34-year-old down," Conn said. - Sapa-AFP

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