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Ashes build-up: Ton-up Marsh leads way for Australia

Canterbury, United Kingdom: Shaun Marsh marked Australia's Ashes tour of England opening match with a century against Kent at Canterbury on Thursday in a bid to retain his Test place. Marsh made 114 and Chris Rogers -- his rival for an Ashes opening spot alongside David Warner -- 84, with Australia 348 for three at stumps on the first day of four.

Steven Smith, now ranked as the world's leading Test batsman having played for Kent 2nd XI earlier in his career, was 71 not out, with Shane Watson unbeaten on eight. The 21-year-old Matt Hunn, in only his fourth match at this level, took all three wickets to fall in a return of three for 78 in 21 overs, and dismissed Australia captain Michael Clarke (56) shortly before the close.

It looked a good pitch to bat on but, with Kent bottom of the Second Division of the County Championship, home skipper Sam Northeast's decision after winning the toss to delay his side's confrontation with an Australia attack featuring fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle was understandable.

Marsh replaced Rogers for Australia's recent 2-0 series win in the Caribbean after his fellow left-handed opener was concussed while batting in the nets and both batsmen are now competing for a place alongside Warner ahead of the first Test against England in Cardiff on July 8.

Rogers found himself having to apologise on Wednesday after he unwittingly contravened ground regulations by trying to re-sell tickets for next month's second Test at Lord's as part of a hospitality package. But Rogers said the incident would not affect his cricket.

"It has been a bit of a distraction, but the cricket starts tomorrow (Thursday) and I am pretty good at just getting on with it, so I am not too worried." He proved as good as his word during a 150-ball innings, including 11 fours, which featured several fine drives although he was dropped in the slips on 21 by Adam Riley off Australia-born paceman Mitchell Claydon.

Rogers seemed set for a century but fell 16 runs short when he was lbw playing back to seamer Matt Hunn to end a first-wicket stand of 181. But Marsh, the son of former Australia opener Geoff Marsh, pressed on to an untroubled century off 172 balls including 12 fours, having then batted for just over three-and-a-half hours. But shortly after tea he was out for his interval score of 114 when he holed out off Hunn to deep point. Smith kept the runs coming with an 80-ball fifty including four fours and a six.

There was a bizarre incident during the final session of play when a spectator pitched a one-person tent on the outfield and went inside it before emerging in a pair of shorts and flying helmet. He returned to his tent before emerging again and being escorted off the outfield by security staff. Clarke, driving the ball fluently, went to his fifty in 68 balls with eight fours. But Hunn struck again when he had Clarke caught down the legside by wicket-keeper Sam Billings.

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