Hussey scored his maiden Ashes century with a cross-bat blow straight down the ground off Stephen Harmison to reach triple figures off 148 balls including 12 fours, before being dismissed just before tea for 103.

 

Not to be outdone, an emotional Clarke scored his 4th Test century and second in two matches, adding to his Adelaide first innings effort of 124, as he finished on 135 not out off 164 balls.

 

Gilchrist then stole the show late in the day as he smashed the second fastest Test century in history, reaching his ton in 57 balls including 12 fours and four massive sixes, finishing unbeaten on 102.

 

The hosts scored at such a fast rate – adding over 400 runs in less than three sessions, that captain Ricky Ponting was able to declare at 527 for 5, leaving England to face a tricky six overs before stumps in which Strauss was out LBW to Brett Lee when not offering a shot.

 

Ponting was the first to go in the morning session when he edged an excellent Harmison delivery to keeper Geraint Jones in the midst of a good spell by the big fast bowler to be out for 75.

 

Australian opener Matthew Hayden looked like scoring the first century of the innings, but was well caught at first slip by a juggling Paul Collingwood off the bowling of Monty Panesar for 92.

 

England rue missed chances

 

Australian batsman Mike Hussey plays a
stroke on his way to 100 runs
Hussey and Clarke then put on 149 for the fourth wicket in a partnership that took the match away from England and also thoroughly entertained the bumper WACA crowd.

 

Both batsmen were given lives with Jones missing a chance to stump Clarke off Panesar and Strauss dropping Hussey off Matthew Hoggard, diving across from second slip when he should have been at first slip in the first place.

 

Hussey also skied a Harmison delivery, but with three England fielders converging, a diving Jones couldn’t get to the catch when he really should have left it for the closer Kevin Pietersen.

 

England also had no luck with some close appeals for LBW, but were punished for their mistakes in the field as the Australian batsmen plundered the bowling to all parts of the WACA.

 

Gilchrist had been out of form coming in to the match, but after a slow start he was back to his devastating best and at one stage had almost nine fielders on the boundary as England captain Andrew Flintoff tried to stop the carnage.

 

The wicket keeper-batsman smashed 24 off one Panesar over and was two deliveries short of breaking Viv Richards’ fastest Test century record of 56 balls.

 

England have plenty of time to win this Test match, and with some in-form batsmen and a pitch that is still holding together, some patience and guts could see them to a memorable victory.

 

However, they have two days to survive should they not make enough runs to win the match, and with the in-form Stuart Clark and Shane Warne waiting to roll their arms over the Ashes may well change hands before day five.