London - Shane Watson's Test-best 176 left Australia firmly in charge of the fifth Ashes match against England at The Oval.
stumps on Wednesday's first day, Australia were 307 for four as they
sought a consolation victory in a five-match series already won by
England at 3-0 up.
Watson put a disappointing series with the bat
behind him with just his third Test hundred -- his first in 25 matches
and 48 innings since his previous best of 126 against India at Mohali in
The 32-year-old all-rounder, playing his 46th Test,
was especially severe on debutants Chris Woakes (none for 52 in 15
overs) and left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan (none for 53 in eight),
chosen after England opted against recalling fast bowler Chris Tremlett
on his Surrey home ground.
"A century is something I have searched
for for a long time," Watson, hit on the head by a Stuart Broad bouncer
on 91, told BBC Radio's Test Match Special.
"Getting hit on the head helped me because it took my mind off getting through the nineties.
faced Simon Kerrigan in the tour match at Northampton (against the
second-string England Lions) last week and I knew what to expect."
filling Australia's problem position of number three after starting the
series as an opener and then moving to number six, received good
support from Steven Smith (66 not out) in an a fourth-wicket stand of
Nightwatchman Peter Siddle was unbeaten on 18.
Clarke, trying to avoid becoming the first Australia captain to lose a
Test series in England 4-0, unsurprisingly chose to bat first after
winning the toss on a good pitch.
However, England had an early
breakthrough when David Warner played a loose shot outside off-stump to
James Anderson and was caught behind for six.
But with England's
bowlers failing to gain much movement, Watson, hitting through the line
with confidence, was 80 not out at lunch.
Chris Rogers, who helped Watson add 107, then fell for 23 when he edged off-spinner Graeme Swann to Jonathan Trott at slip.
nine runs shy of a century, was struck on the side of his head
unprotected by his helmet, after he took his eye off a Broad bouncer.
then captured the prize wicket of Clarke, bowled off the pad for seven,
with the Lancashire paceman's 326th Test wicket moving him past Bob
Willis and into sole possession of second place on England's all-time
list of leading Test wicket-takers behind Ian Botham (383).
who batted on after his painful blow, spent 41 minutes in the 90s
before driving Anderson to complete a hundred in a mere 114 balls.
he should have been out on 104 when he edged Anderson only for England
captain Alastair Cook to drop a seemingly simple catch at first slip.
difficult day continued when he was called for a no-ball as a result of
a dangerous head-high full-toss smashed to the boundary by Smith, who
went on to make a 113-ball 50 featuring five fours and a six.
Late on, Woakes thought he had a maiden Test wicket when Watson missed an attempted pull and was given out lbw on 166.
Watson challenged Kumar Dharmasena's call and, after the Decision
Review System indicated the ball would have cleared the stumps, the Sri
Lankan umpire reversed his original verdict.
"I thought the lbw
decision was going to be umpire's call when I reviewed it, but I'm not a
good umpire -- I usually get it wrong," Watson said.
out when a powerful hook off a Broad bouncer was brilliantly caught by
Kevin Pietersen, running round at deep backward square leg, to end a
near six-hour innings of 247 balls with 25 fours and a six.
teams made changes following England's 74-run fourth Test win at
Chester-le-Street, with the hosts missing injured all-rounder Tim
Bresnan and dropping out-of-form batsman Jonny Bairstow.
looking for their first win in nine Tests, gave a debut to all-rounder
James Faulkner and recalled Mitchell Starc after they dropped batsman
Usman Khawaja and paceman Jackson Bird.