London: Australia suffered a frustrating time in the field as England Lions batsman Gary Ballance hit a century on a rain-affected first day of the tour match at Northampton on Friday.
Ballance, who plays his county cricket for Yorkshire, smashed 104 from 154 balls, including 16 fours and one six as the Lions closed on 269-7, with spinner Nathan Lyon the pick of the Australia bowlers with three for 80.
Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen Ali also contributed 61 off 101 deliveries for Lions, but with bad weather forecast for Saturday the tourists' hopes for batting practice ahead of next week's final Test at the Oval could be frustrated.
Australia are 3-0 down in the best of five Test series and have already failed in their bid to regain the Ashes. England Lions won the toss and chose to bat when play finally got underway after lunch, but they lost Luke Wells for 10 in the sixth over when he edged James Faulkner to Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
His fellow opener Alex Lees should have followed on 16 but the tourists' captain Shane Watson put down a straightforward chance at slip, off the bowling of Lyon. Fortunately for Watson, his mistake only cost 17 runs as he pouched his next opportunity at first slip after Yorkshire's Lees edged another Lyon delivery to walk for 33.
Lions' captain Eoin Morgan made only five before throwing his wicket away with an ugly slash off Lyon to Watson, again at first slip. Ali perished in the fourth over of the evening session when he was taken by Steve Smith at second slip off Mitchell Starc to break a fourth-wicket partnership of 70 with Ballance.
Lyon was brought back into the attack in the 56th over and with his first ball forced Ben Stokes to edge to Watson at slip and fall on 19.Lions' wicketkeeper Jos Buttler went cheaply by smashing Smith's waist-high full toss straight to Lyon at deep midwicket.
Ballance then surged past 100 off 153 balls by hammering Smith for six over midwicket, only for the part-time spinner to trap him lbw with the next ball.