Cricket: England face massive task to score 561 runs to win first Ashes Test

BRISBANE (AFP) - England were fighting to save the opening Ashes Test after a demoralising third day dominated by Australia at the Gabba.

Skipper Michael Clarke left the tourists toiling in the field chasing the ball before calling a halt with just over an hour left and setting England an improbable 561 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series.

England had a wretched start to their marathon salvage operation when Michael Carberry was bowled by Ryan Harris for a duck in the fifth over and Jonathan Trott completed a sorry match when he pulled straight to Nathan Lyon at deep square leg for nine.

Carberry, England's top scorer in the first innings with 40, played back to Harris only for the ball to trickle through his legs and dislodge the bails.

England went to stumps at 24 for two with Alastair Cook on 11 and Kevin Pietersen three not out.

Pietersen almost ran out his skipper when he darted off for a quick single on his first ball faced and Cook just made his ground.

Clarke held on to his declaration decision seemingly to inflict maximum mental damage on Cook's team to set the tone for the rest of the Tests after England's 3-0 series win three months ago for their third straight Ashes triumph.

Clarke and David Warner hit centuries as Australia accumulated an imposing 401 for seven, representing an overall lead of 560 as the home side set out to protect their 25-year unbeaten run at the Gabba ground.