Sydney, Jan. 4 (Reuters): Michael Vaughan scored an unbeaten century for England on Saturday after Adam Gilchrist blasted a hundred for Australia to lay the foundations for a thrilling end to the fifth and final Ashes Test.
Vaughan made 113 not out to help England finish the day on 218 for two in their second innings after Gilchrist made 133 to guide Australia to a first innings total of 363, just one run ahead of Englands 362.
With England 217 runs ahead with eight second innings wickets in hand and two days still to play, the match seems headed towards a tight finish.
Vaughan overtook Matthew Hayden as the leading runscorer in the series (563) with his third hundred following his 177 in Adelaide and 145 in Melbourne, becoming the first Englishman since Chris Broad in 1986-87 to make three tons in an Ashes series.
The 28-year-old Vaughan made a duck in the first innings but responded with a classic second innings knock that featured 16 fours and a six to every part of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Vaughan reached his fifty off 66 balls, then hit Damien Martyn for successive fours to pass 100 from 147 deliveries. He was dropped by Justin Langer on 102 but survived to fight another day, sharing an unbroken 94-run partnership with his captain Nasser Hussain (34 batting).
Vaughan was well supported by the rest of Englands top order with first innings centurion Mark Butcher (34) and opener Marcus Trescothick (22) making valuable contributions against an Australian attack badly missing Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
Their efforts helped swing the balance back Englands way after Australia had fought hard for a one-run lead on the first innings thanks to Gilchrists swashbuckling display.
The big-hitting left-hander smashed 18 fours in his 122-ball knock and shared a crucial 82-run ninth-wicket partnership with tailender Jason Gillespie to help Australia sneak past England.
Australia had resumed on 237 for five after Steve Waughs century the previous night, but things quickly turned sour for the home side.
Waugh failed to add to his overnight score of 102 when he fell to Matthew Hoggard in the second over of the day, fending a ball to Butcher at second slip.
Hoggard then dismissed Andy Bichel and Lee in successive balls before Gillespie dug his heels in to allow Gilchrist to continue his run-spree.
The Australian vice-captain had begun the day on 45 after helping Waugh get his hundred the night before, but signalled his intentions to get it alone, belting boundaries off Andy Caddicks first two overs to reach his half-century off 55 balls in 80 minutes.
He was stuck on 71 when Gillespie joined him at the crease but immediately raised the tempo again, smashing fours to all areas to register his seventh Test hundred and his second against England from 94 balls in 141 minutes.
He reached the milestone when he swatted Steve Harmison to long-on for three.