Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds powered Australia into a commanding position with big centuries in the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.
The pair came together with their side in trouble at 84 for five, still trailing England by 75 runs, after the tourists claimed three wickets on the second morning.
But just as England looked set to fight their way back into contention, Queensland pair Hayden and Symonds forged a stunning 279-run partnership as Australia built up a 213-run lead to reach 372 for seven at the close.
Both players were under scrutiny for different reasons with Hayden being one of many experienced players in Australia's line-up under threat as they attempt to introduce younger blood.
Symonds was also under pressure having been recalled to the Australian side following the retirement of Damien Martyn and needing an innings of note after two failures during the previous Test in Perth.
But they both delivered with Hayden hitting a superb 153, his 27th Test century, and Symonds cracking his maiden Test ton to finish unbeaten on 154, including 15 fours and a six.
Australia began cautiously after resuming 111 runs adrift on 48 for two with Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard maintaining tight lines and lengths in ideal conditions.
They restricted Ricky Ponting and Hayden to only 14 runs in the first seven overs and, just as Australia seemed to have battled through the worst of the conditions, Flintoff struck.
Ponting attempted to pull a short ball outside off-stump and got a thick edge which flew high in the air to Alastair Cook at midwicket.
The turning point of the morning session, though, was the drinks break after an hour's play as Hoggard struck with the first ball after the resumption to remove the dangerous Mike Hussey.
Former Northamptonshire and Durham batsman Hussey averaged 138 in the series going into this innings, but scored just six before being bowled by Hoggard with a delivery which swung in marginally and found the gap between bat and pad.
Flintoff had bowled his longest spell of the series so far - seven overs - but brought Steve Harmison into the attack for an overdue bowl in the next over and he struck with his second ball to remove new batsman Michael Clarke with a lifting delivery he edged behind.
It brought Symonds to the crease, and he took 21 balls to get off the mark but he followed the example of Hayden, who had taken nearly three hours to reach his half-century.
Symonds was fortunate to survive after reaching his second half-century with umpire Rudi Koertzen wrongly dismissing an lbw appeal from left-arm spinner Monty Panesar after he had missed a sweep shot.
That compounded the frustration for an England team that believed they had dismissed Hayden twice on six and nine during the previous evening when Hoggard also had strong lbw appeals rejected by Koertzen.
Those reprieves did not seem to inhibit Hayden, however, and he came down the wicket in the same over to launch Panesar over the top for six and then brought his century up in his next over with the 11th four of his innings.
Symonds brought up his first Test century in similarly impressive style, launching all-rounder Paul Collingwood down the ground for six.
England's only consolation was two late wickets for Sajid Mahmood with the new ball, the Lancastrian firstly inducing Hayden into an edge behind and then tempting Adam Gilchrist into edging a wide delivery to second slip.Reuse content