CARDIFF (AFP) - Michael Clarke batted Australia into a first innings lead on the third day of the opening Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens here on Friday as a see-saw contest once more moved in the tourists' favour. Australia at close were 479 for five in reply to England's first innings 435, a lead of 44 runs. Clarke was 83 not out and Marcus North, in his debut Ashes innings, unbeaten on 54 after captain Ricky Ponting had made 150 and opener Simon Katich 122. A slow pitch was, not for the first time in this match, proving more of an obstacle to bowlers than batsmen and England, who had broken through with the new-ball before lunch, endured a wicketless second session. Clarke was only 19 not out at lunch and North yet to score. But apart from a couple of top-edged sweeps, which fell into the unguarded short fine leg area, the duo were rarely troubled in a chanceless fifth-wicket stand so far worth 127. Vice-captain Clarke played some sparkling shots in his 100-ball fifty. He went down the pitch to loft left-arm spinner Monty Panesar down the ground for six and reached the landmark when, again displaying good footwork, he drove off-spinner Graeme Swann for four. Swann was struggling and England captain Andrew Strauss brought-on occasional medium-pacer Paul Collingwood in a bid to break the stand. But there were to be no 'golden-arm' moments from the Durham all-rounder and it was left to Andrew Flintoff, the hero of England's 2005 Ashes triumph, to once again rouse his side and, indeed, the crowd. However, a pulled four by Clarke in Flintoff's comeback over saw Australia into the lead and, aided by byes conceded by wicket-keeper Matthew Prior when stood up to Collingwood, they wasted little time in extending their advantage. North's single off Flintoff saw the left-hander, who has played for five English counties, to a fifty in 107 balls with seven fours. Earlier, England finally saw the back of Katich, whose hundred was his first in Ashes cricket and Ponting, reaching three figures against England for the eighth time in Tests. Ponting, exactly 100 not out overnight, fell when he bottom-edged into his stumps after trying to force Panesar through the offside. His innings spanned more than five hours and saw Ponting face 224 balls with a six and 14 fours. It was the 13th time in his 38 Test centuries the 34-year-old Tasmanian, one of cricket's great batsmen, had scored 150 or more. Australia had been scoring steadily, and in largely untroubled fashion, until the advent of the new ball. Katich's near five-and-a-half hours of resistance came to an end when he was hit on the boot in front of his stumps and was given out lbw by West Indian umpire Billy Doctrove. In all, the left-hander faced 261 balls with 12 fours and put on 239 for the second wicket with Ponting. SCOREBOARD ENGLAND, 1st Innings: 435 (K Pietersen 69, P Collingwood 64, M Prior 56; M Johnson 3-87, N Hauritz 3-95) AUSTRALIA, 1st innings: PJ Hughes c Prior b Flintoff 36 SM Katich lbw b Anderson 122 RT Ponting b Panesar 150 MEK Hussey c Prior b Anderson 3 MJ Clarke c Prior b Broad 83 MJ North not out 54 BJ Haddin not out 4 EXTRAS: (b 8, lb 12, w 2, nb 5) 27 TOTAL: (5 wickets; 139 overs) 479 (RR3.44 ) To bat MG Johnson, NM Hauritz, BW Hilfenhaus, PM Siddle Fall of wickets1-60 (Hughes, 14.6 ov), 2-299 (Katich, 84.6 ov), 3-325 (Hussey, 90.1 ov), 4-331 (Ponting, 94.5 ov), 5-474 (Clarke, 136.5 ov) BOWLING: JM Anderson 24-5-80-2-3.33 (1w) SCJ Broad 26-4-101-1-3.88 GP Swann 28-8-86-0-3.07 A Flintoff 29-3-104-1-3.58 (5nb, 1w) MS Panesar 27-4-78-1-2.88 PD Collingwood 5-0-10-0-2.00 Toss England, who chose to bat Umpires Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and BR Doctrove (West Indies), TV umpire RA Kettleborough, Match referee JJ Crowe (New Zealand) Reserve umpire RK Illingworth.