Have Australia turned a corner in the Ashes?

Sports Mole assesses whether Australia have turned a corner in their battle to fight back in the Ashes after dominating day one of the third Test.

After winning the toss at Old Trafford yesterday morning, Australia sensed that it was their best opportunity to have some kind of positive impact on the Ashes.

But after easing to a superb day-one total of 303-3, was it simply a case of several out-of-form batsmen taking advantage of a flat pitch, or will we finally see Australia become competitive as they look to pull off a remarkable fightback?

You have to think that it will be the latter, but we have already witnessed in this series that things can easily swing one way and then the other.

Given the new-found optimism that has flowed through the English cricket fan in recent years, I'm sure many weren't too perturbed at losing the toss. Australia's top order have caved four times already this summer. Surely they will succumb to James Anderson and co once more?

But this time, they didn't. Rather than gifting their wicket away or gambling on a DRS review, they batted with purpose, with efficiency, with a controlled aggression that kept themselves on the front foot.

Australian captain Michael Clarke celebrates after scoring a century against Sri Lanka on December 27, 2012© PA Photos

Despite being 35 years old, Chris Rogers has shown very little experience in his opening two Ashes matches, and it was a surprise that he kept his place in Australia's starting lineup.

But as soon as he walked out into the middle in Manchester yesterday, he oozed class in bringing up his fifty and then kicking on to make a fine 84 off 114 balls.

The platform that Rogers set then allowed Michael Clarke to bat in circumstances that he has barely been given the opportunity to experience in England this time around.

The Australian skipper has got used to walking to the crease with his side in disarray, forcing him to bat defensively and with patience.

But the foundations had been laid, and immediately after his arrival, he was dominant in recording a delightful 125 off 208 balls. And you get the feeling that there is plenty more left in the tank.

Australia's David Warner in action during the First Ashes Test match on July 10, 2013© PA Photos

Steven Smith is also going along nicely on 70, but maybe the best is yet to come for Australia, who have a resurgent David Warner waiting in the wings.

He has looked like a rabbit caught up in headlights during the opening part of the year, but this situation is perfect for him to make a statement to his doubters.

He can afford to take the shackles off and express himself, very much like he did in scoring 193 against South Africa 'A' last week, and he will want to show the English public that they will want to remember him for his exploits on the pitch, rather than off it.

You get the feeling that the direction of this Test match will be decided in the morning session of day two. If England can pick up four of five wickets, then they will have regained the momentum.

But if Clarke, Smith and Warner can get through this session with two of the three still at the crease, maybe the calls for a whitewash series success will begin to diminish.

Australia's captain Michael Clarke in action on July 13, 2013
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