Perth: Australia’s Steven Smith 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 on Friday.
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.
Smith and wicketkeeper 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 teammates and Australia reached the close on 326 for six.
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 told reporters. “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 (Saturday), we can post a really good score.”
Smith took a swipe at the England bowlers by declaring that Australia would not have missed the same opportunity.
“Our bowlers are going to look forward to bowling out there, the wicket quickened up today,” Smith said. “If they hit the right lengths we are going to create plenty of chances. I think they bowled a little bit short in patches, when we come and out bowl we will be a yard fuller than they were.”
Smith headed into the day under pressure having only managed 60 runs in the first two Tests, and admits that his strong performance is a weight off his shoulders.
“It is probably right up there for me in my career,” he added. “I was under a little bit of pressure coming into this game, having not scored many runs, and also the position of the game. I felt like I was hitting the ball well in the nets, from ball one today (Friday) I felt pretty good and I think I summed up the conditions well and it paid off in the end.”
After losing the toss for a third successive match, 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 but also contributed to their own demise with rash strokes.