Ashes 3rd Test, Day 3: They think it's all over...

Gilchrist powers Aussies towards victory
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The Independent Online

Australia took a massive step closer to regaining the Ashes today after Adam Gilchrist plundered the second fastest hundred in Test history in Perth.

Already 2-0 up in the series following their victories in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia moved in for the kill on the third day at the WACA by dominating England with the bat before making a key breakthrough with the ball.

Resuming 148 runs ahead on an already commanding 119 for one, Australia hammered 408 runs in only 66 overs to declare 556 runs ahead and by the close the tourists had slumped to 19 for one.

Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke laid the foundations for Australia's run-spree by both hitting determined centuries, but it was the brilliance of Gilchrist which finally crushed England's spirit.

Gilchrist came within two deliveries of scoring the fastest Test hundred of all time, hammering 12 fours and four sixes to bring up three figures off just 57 balls.

His stunning display, which included hitting left-arm spinner Monty Panesar for 24 in one over, saw him narrowly miss beating the 56-ball ton by the legendary Viv Richards against England in Antigua 20 years ago.

Gilchrist added an awesome 162 in only 20 overs with Clarke to bury England under weight of runs.

Until Gilchrist's stunning innings, England could have counted themselves unlucky not to have made further inroads after a combination of missed chances and denied appeals.

Under-fire wicketkeeper Geraint Jones was the biggest culprit by missing a stumping and a catch after Steve Harmison struck in the sixth over of the day to give England a flying start by removing Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

Having driven the previous ball through the covers for four - his 10th boundary in his 75 - Ponting attempted an identical shot but this time edged to wicketkeeper Jones.

But it was a further 17 overs before England struck again as opener Matthew Hayden and Hussey rode their luck to forge an important 62-run stand.

Hussey was fortunate to get off the mark after edging Harmison just short of England captain Andrew Flintoff at second slip, which flew to the third man boundary.

Hayden also enjoyed his share of lady luck to survive an lbw appeal from Harmison on 65 and then got an inside edge off seamer Matthew Hoggard, which flew just wide of his leg stump to the fine leg boundary.

England believed they should have also dismissed Hussey when he had progressed to 15 when he appeared to have been caught off left-arm spinner Panesar at bat-pad by Alastair Cook, only for umpire Rudi Koertzen to reject the appeal.

Panesar finally got his reward for his tight spell of bowling four overs later when Hayden, just eight short of his century, got cramped attempting a cut shot and edged to Paul Collingwood, who parried his first attempt before collecting the catch on the rebound.

England should have had a further wicket before lunch but Jones, under pressure for his place after only two half-centuries in his last 26 Test innings, fumbled a stumping chance with new batsman Clarke out of his crease on two.

Jones' miserable day continued after the interval when he also missed Hussey on 48. The batsman mistimed a pull off Harmison and England's wicketkeeper sprinted 30 yards to square leg to claim the catch from Kevin Pietersen but was unable to take it diving.

Hussey was given one more lifeline when he was dropped on 78 off the first delivery after the drinks break, edging Hoggard to Andrew Strauss in a wide first slip position but again the opportunity was missed.

Panesar finally ended Hussey's innings when he had him caught behind shortly before tea and Symonds edged him to slip to begin Gilchrist's stunning onslaught.

Once Gilchrist had reached three figures Australia declared immediately and claimed their reward for their adventurous play by removing Strauss with the fourth ball of their reply when he was given lbw shouldering arms to Brett Lee.

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