Travis Head’s sublime century has lifted Australia to 6-241 at stumps on an eventful opening day of the fifth Ashes Test in Hobart on Friday.
Australia crashed to 3-12 in 10 overs on a green pitch after losing the toss, reliving their nightmarish start to the previous Test at Bellerive.
But there was no meek collapse to rival the chaos of 2016.
Instead, a counter-punching Head humbled England’s beleaguered bowlers with help from Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green.
Head was “bitterly disappointed” to fall for 101, chipping a catch to Ollie Robinson immediately after celebrating his second hundred of the five-Test series.
The left-hander, forced to miss the SCG Test after contracting COVID-19, nonetheless shifted momentum in a staggering fashion that belied Friday’s opening hour in which pink ball dominated bat.
“Anything over 300 is going to be a great start,” Head said, when asked what first-innings total might be required to bank a 4-0 series win.
“We’ve got a high-quality bowling attack.
“Batting as long as we possibly can tomorrow is going to be key.”
Head shared a 71-run partnership with Labuschagne, which ended in bizarre fashion in the penultimate over of the opening session, then a 121-run stand with Green.
Green’s dismissal on 74, in what proved the third last over of the day after rain resulted in stumps being pulled after 59.3 overs, will give England hope of cleaning up the tail quickly on Saturday.
But the tourists, who failed to grasp a golden chance to dismiss Labuschagne (44) for a duck during the early carnage, have already squandered their hopes of restricting Australia to a far smaller total.
A crowd of 9002 waited for play to resume late on Friday night before umpires gave up hope at 10.11pm AEDT.
The Head-inspired comeback was the latest reminder of Australia’s depth this summer, coming after recalled paceman Robinson removed David Warner and Steve Smith for ducks in an inspired opening spell.
It marked the first time that Warner and Smith both failed to trouble the scorers in a Test innings.
Head cracked 12 boundaries, overtaking Labuschagne as the series’ leading run-scorer in the process.
‘Slow to adapt’
“It was a really smart innings that Travis played,” England bowling coach Jon Lewis said.
“Counter-attacking and hitting our guys off lengths … we were a bit slow to adapt.”
Green was in the box seat to post his maiden Test ton before picking out Zak Crawley at deep square leg, falling victim to Mark Wood’s short-ball ploy.
Wood, otherwise England’s most impressive paceman on this tour, logged figures of 1-79 from 11.3 overs to prove England’s least economical bowler.
Crawley held onto three catches but grassed the edge offered by Labuschagne in the eighth over, having dived in front of Joe Root at first slip.
Robinson, who trudged off to the change rooms because of a sore back but returned to field, only delivered eight overs.
Labuschagne’s not-so-fancy footwork brought about his downfall.
The world’s No.1 Test batter tried to give himself room by stepping to the off side but slipped over, with Stuart Broad’s delivery hitting middle stump.