Watson sparkles before Australia declare

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REUTERS

Australia's Shane Watson (4th R) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of England's Michael Carberry during the fourth day of the third Ashes test cricket match at the WACA ground in Perth. REUTERS/David Gray

PERTH - Shane Watson smashed 73 runs off 40 balls for a spectacular century before Australia declared at 369 for three with a lead of 503 over England 40 minutes before lunch on the fourth day of the third test at the WACA on Monday.

On a morning of intense drama and some high farce, Ryan Harris then sensationally bowled England captain Alastair Cook for a duck with the first ball of the innings and the stunned tourists limped to the break at 24 for one.

Michael Carberry (8) and Joe Root (7) will resume for England, who need to bat for five sessions on a wicket already scarred with cracks to save the test and prevent Australia from taking a 3-0 series lead and reclaiming the Ashes.

The hosts were already well in charge at 235 for three with Watson on 29 when they resumed and the big all-rounder signalled his and his team's intent by smashing two fours and a six off the first over from spinner Graeme Swann.

He reached his fifty with a single off the first ball of the fourth over and took Australia's lead past 400 inside the first 20 minutes of the day.

England were again left ruing their luck when Tim Bresnan caught him on 90 only to fall over the boundary rope and Watson soon had only his fourth test century when he clipped a four to fine leg.

Watson's departure for 103 was as remarkable as his sparkling innings, which included 11 fours and five bludgeoned sixes.

Ian Bell waited for an age for his skied shot to come down only to drop it but, with Watson having given up, alert bowler Bresnan ran him out at the non-striker's end.

Despite a string of dropped catches, the tourists did manage to dismiss Steve Smith (15) and Brad Haddin (five) but George Bailey (39 not out) continued to punish the English bowling.

When Bailey smashed James Anderson for 28 off an over to take Australia's lead past the 500-mark, captain Michael Clarke called his players in.

Bailey's 4,6,2,4,6,6 matched West Indies great Brian Lara's record of most runs off one over in test cricket, which he achieved by hitting South African Robin Peterson for 4,6,6,4,4,4 in the Johannesburg test in the 2003-04 season.

The punishment was not over for England yet, though, and with his first delivery Harris produced a peach of a ball to knock off Cook's off bail, the first time the England captain had been dismissed by the first ball he faced.

Reuters


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