Marcus North all but booked his place in Australia’s side for next week’s first Ashes Test after making a century in his final innings before the series opener with England.
North finished the third day of the four-day tour match against the second-string England Lions at New Road on 106 not out.
His score was the centerpiece of a second innings total that saw Australia end Friday on 276 for four, a lead of 282 runs.
Meanwhile, Stephen Harmison also reinforced his claims for England’s third quick berth in the first Test at Cardiff by skittling out Australian rookie Phillip Hughes and captain Ricky Ponting. Durham quick Harmison, dropped by England in the Caribbean earlier this year, took two wickets for 36 runs to add to his first innings four for 80.
Melbourne-born left-hander North, who had scored 1, 11 and 1 in his three previous warm-up innings on this tour, made his Ashes spot certain with a resolute, 168-ball ton over almost four hours.
Michael Clarke, Australia’s vice-captain, also played assuredly for his 80, before holing out to the long-on boundary from Vikram Solanki’s gentle spinners in the shadows of stumps.
However, this match has had a sobering effect on rising star Hughes, who can expect plenty of short stuff in Cardiff after being bounced out for the second time in as many innings by a fired up Harmison.
Hughes has enjoyed a stellar start to his international career and had a prolific spell with county side Middlesex earlier this season, but he has appeared vulnerable to the well-directed bouncer during this match.
The 20-year-old left-handed opener again faced a short-pitched barrage before Harmison, bowling from around the wicket, cramped Hughes and a catch flew to second slip Eoin Morgan off the batsman’s gloves.
Harmison then had Ponting, driving away from his body, caught in the gully for 15.
Uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who earlier scored 10 fours in a classy innings of 66, dismissed Simon Katich (37) thanks to a wonderful reflex catch from Stephen Moore at bat-pad.
Earlier, the tourists’ pace trio needed 75 minutes to claim the Lions’ final four wickets, with Rashid’s half-century adding to Moore’s 120 and half-centuries from Joe Denly and Steven Davies on the second day.
Brett Lee was denied his best-ever first class bowling figures when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spilled his second straightforward catch of the game, putting down Harmison toward the end of the Lions’ innings.
Haddin dropped Lions centurion Moore on 41 on Thursday.
Lee had earlier roughed up Sajid Mahmood, before sending him packing with his next delivery when the ball ricocheted off the Lancashire bowler’s shoulder and hit the stumps.
The 32-year-old pace man seems certain to have booked a spot in Australia’s line-up for the first Test after returning figures of six wickets for 76 runs in 27 overs with a venomous burst of pace and swing.
Mitchell Johnson (one for 118) struck in his first over with the second new ball when Tim Bresnan played onto leg-stump, while Stuart Clark finished with two for 40 as the Lions came within six runs of Australia’s first innings 358.