Australia’s Steve Smith has scored a brilliant century to help wrest control of the third Ashes Test back from a revitalised England on a sweltering opening day at the WACA.
The hosts, who will recapture the urn with victory in Perth after winning the first two Tests, looked in real trouble when the dismissal of George Bailey before tea reduced them to 143 for five on Friday.
Smith and wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, however, put on 124 for the sixth wicket with circumspect and, occasionally, aggressive innings that contrasted sharply with the cavalier efforts of their team mates and Australia reached the close on 326 for six.
|First day scorecard|
Australia first innings
C Rogers run out (Anderson) 11
They were separated when Haddin, who has scored half centuries in all four innings in the series, spooned the ball to James Anderson at midwicket off the bowling of Ben Stokes for 55 an hour before stumps.
Smith reached his second Test century, however, and will resume on Saturday on 103 not out with Mitchell Johnson, unbeaten on 39.
“Yeah, it was nice,” Smith said.
“Obviously under a bit of pressure there losing a few wickets in the middle but …hopefully we’re in a decent position.
“If we start well tomorrow, we can post a really good score.”
England were left ruing a missed opportunity to take control of the Test and bowling coach David Saker was disappointed his paceman had let Australia off the hook by not bowling a consistent length.
“No doubt we let it slip,” Saker said.
“It’s probably not the first time this series as well we’ve had them on the ropes to a degree and we haven’t finished the job.”
After losing the toss for a third successive match and the chance to bat on what looked like an excellent surface, the tourists initially responded to their do-or-die situation with their sharpest display of the series to date.
Australia’s batsmen looked intent on piling on the runs as quickly as possible – they were scoring at five an over at one stage – but also contributed to their own demise with rash strokes.
David Warner’s attempted cut only to be caught at point for 60 would contend for the softest dismissal of the day but Bailey (seven) also came close to claiming the honours with a hook that saw him hole out on the boundary.
Captain Michael Clarke (24) will also be disappointed with the shot that led to his departure just before lunch, a wicket which followed the run out of opener Chris Rogers (11) and dismissal of Shane Watson (18) in the first hour.
With the temperatures out in the middle exceeding 40C, the pair forced England to labour long into the extended final session under the blazing Perth sunshine.
“It was a pretty tough part of the game,” Smith said.
“They’d taken a few wickets and were pretty high so to dig through there, and get through a few of their big bowlers spells and cash in late in the game.
“The pitch is pretty good, hopefully we can cash in in the morning get 400, 450 and really be able to set the game up from there.”