| Matthew Hayden takes a bow after his century at the MCG Thursday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer feasted on centuries and an endangered Steve Waugh batted with something to prove as Australia throttled England’s bowlers yet again in the fourth Ashes Test here Thursday.
Australia, already with the Ashes tucked away after carrying off first three Tests in just 11 days’ play, ruthlessly took to the threadbare England bowling attack in what is shaping as an inexorable advance on a 5-0 Ashes series sweep, the second since 1920-21.
In-form Hayden clouted three sixes on his way to his third century of the series, while Langer clubbed a six off spinner Richard Dawson over long-on to raise his 13th Test century.
But for the 64,189 Boxing Day crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, it was the belligerent innings by under-fire captain Steve Waugh that had them spellbound.
Waugh, batting for his cricket life after selectors said he would not be guaranteed future selection beyond next week’s final Sydney Test, strode to the crease to a sustained ovation.
He carved up the attack with 12 vintage boundaries and reached his 46th Test half-century off 49 balls in just under an hour.
At stumps, Australia had moved to a formidable 356 for three, the most runs in a day’s play at the MCG, bettering the 355 for eight Australia scored against India in 1948.
Langer batted all day to be unconquered on 146 with 19 fours and a six, while Waugh’s defiant 62 came off 78 balls.
Hayden, who scored 197 and 103 in the first Brisbane Test, brought up his 12th Test hundred in thrilling fashion, his second 50 reeled off 44 balls.
He was out soon after for 102, skying Caddick to mid off where John Crawley stood his ground to accept an outstretched catch. Hayden has now scored 478 runs in the series at 95.6.
Hayden shared a 195-run stand with Langer, the highest by an Australian opening pair against England at the MCG in 95 years.
The pair expunged the previous best of 126 from the record books scored by Victor Trumper and Monty Noble here in 1907-08.
It was two left-handers’ eighth century partnership since coming together at The Oval, 16 months ago. Their stand came up off 268 balls in 189 minutes.
Australian players praised Mark Butcher after the Englishman admitted he was not sure if a low chance at slip from Waugh had carried.
Waugh edged Caddick to Butcher who appeared to catch the ball just before it hit the ground. Waugh stood his ground as England appealed for the catch.
The decision was referred to third umpire Darrell Hair who gave it not out after watching video replays. The Australia captain shook hands with Butcher during the incident.