England reel as Waugh hits century

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The Independent Online

Steve Waugh's eighth century against England enabled Australia to edge into a slender lead before rain brought an early end to play in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston yesterday. The bad weather's arrival wiped out most of the final session, with the tourists 332 for 4 in reply to England's 294.

Waugh's unbeaten 101 gives Australia the upper hand going into today's third day, but the efforts of England's bowlers to keep their side in the game earned praise from the Australian captain, who rated the innings among the best half-dozen of the 26 he has posted in his Test career.

"I say that because the conditions were difficult, with the wicket playing a little up and down, and because England bowled pretty well, in particular Darren Gough, who bowled superbly. They probably did not get the rub of the green today, just as maybe we didn't on the first day.

"But I felt very relaxed and technically I played very well. I'd put it among the best six Test hundreds I have made – on a par with the one I made in the first innings at Old Trafford on the last tour."

England made the breakthrough they had wanted in the morning session when Gough removed the dangerous Michael Slater with his first ball. However, they twice allowed Mark Waugh to escape chances, one of them a stumping opportunity, the other a catch spilled by Marcus Trescothick at second slip when the younger of the twins was on 29.

The brothers went on to add 133 in 40 overs before Mark edged a catch to the wicketkeeper Alec Stewart off Andrew Caddick, but the arrival of Damien Martyn maintained Australia's grip.

"We bowled pretty well but you have to take every chance that comes to you at this level," Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, said. "It is important now that we keep our discipline and show a lot of character.

"Australia are definitely in a good position, but if we can set them anything over 150 in the fourth innings it could be difficult."

The authorities at Edgbaston are threatening fines of £1,000 against any spectator who enters the playing area.

Although crowd trouble during the NatWest Series exposed the absence of legislation to prevent pitch invasions, Warwickshire County Cricket Club say they are entitled to threaten supporters with fines if they do not obey ground regulations and will pursue offenders through the courts if they refuse to pay.

"It is nowhere near a substitute for the proper legislation, but it is something we can do as a private members' club," Dennis Amiss, the chief executive, said.

"If spectators trespass into areas we say are out of bounds we are entitled to take action. We frame our own ground regulations and when people buy a ticket to watch a match here they enter into a contract to obey those regulations. It is intended primarily as a deterrent and warning notices have been placed around ground."