Steven Smith is congratulated by Australia
teammate Ryan Harris after completing his century on day one of the fifth Ashes Test against England, January 3. Reuters
Steve Smith scored a sparkling century and put on 128 for the sixth wicket with Brad Haddin to rescue Australia and push the hosts to a respectable 326 all out on the first day of the fifth Ashes Test against England on Friday in Sydney.
England's nemesis Mitchell Johnson drove home the advantage in the final half hour by removing Michael Carberry for a duck to leave captain Alastair Cook (7) and nightwatchman James Anderson (1) at the crease at eight for one at stumps.
Smith was the final Australian wicket to fall for 115 and while his second century of the series put a thick layer of gloss on the day for the hosts, there was no doubt the momentum shifted with wicketkeeper Haddin's 90-ball 75.
Looking to seal a 5-0 series sweep, Australia were well and truly on the ropes at 97 for five after England struck twice in the 15 minutes before lunch and then dismissed George Bailey for one within 10 minutes of the resumption.
Haddin, as he has in all four previous tests when his team were in similarly precarious positions, came out oozing positivity and took the game to the bowlers with a barrage of aggressive strokes.
"Brad was great out there," Smith told reporters. "He was great to bat with. I sort of took a back seat and just watched him go. The way he played his shots today, it was brilliant to form a partnership with him and get us in the position we are now.
"When you get sent in and get 326, you'd take that and to have them one-for overnight as well, we're in a good position."
England contributed to their own misery by bowling short to a batsman who was clearly happy to pull and hook to the boundary all day with Ben Stokes (6-99) suffering particular punishment.
The torment for the tourists only deepened when paceman Boyd Rankin, one of three new caps in the side, hobbled off the field after lunch with what looked like a hamstring injury.
The tall Irishman returned to bowl in the final session but lasted just one delivery before having to limp back off the field. England said his injury was just cramp, however.
Haddin grabbed his fifth half century of the series before tea with a hurried single and Smith joined him with a half century of his own with a cover drive for four soon after the break.
Stokes got a measure of revenge when he ended Haddin's innings after 124 match-turning minutes, inducing an edge which Cook held in the slips.
"When a guy's playing like that against you, I guess you have to hold up your hands to a bloke in really good form," said Stokes, who added a maiden five-wicket haul to the first test century he scored in Perth.
"I think it's just the way he comes out and plays his natural game straight away whatever the situation is."
That wicket brought out Johnson, who stayed with Smith for an hour or so and 12 runs before holing out in the deep to substitute fielder Joe Root to give debutant leg spinner Scott Borthwick his first Test wicket.
Smith, though, charged inexorably towards his third test century, teeing it up with a thunderous six off Borthwick to move to 99 and passing the milestone with a clattering four, his 16th, two balls later.
"I haven't played with too many nerves in this series," said Smith, who hit 17 fours and the one six in his 154-ball innings. "I've felt quite good every time I've gone to the crease ... and today I guess was my day."
Australia's tail continued to wag and Ryan Harris scored 22 before becoming Stokes's fourth victim with Peter Siddle following him back to the pavilion from the next delivery for a golden duck.
Nathan Lyon fended off the hat-trick ball from Stokes and it was Smith who became the young all-rounder's sixth victim when he slapped the ball to Root at midwicket to end the innings.
The day had started well for England when Cook won the toss for the first time in the series and chose to send his new-look team out to bowl on a green-tinged wicket under overcast skies.
David Warner (16), Chris Rogers (11), Australia captain Michael Clarke (10) and Shane Watson (43) were then all dismissed as England claimed the honours in the first session.
While England rang the changes by dropping Root, spinner Monty Panesar and seamer Tim Bresnan and awarding first caps to Gary Ballance, Borthwick and Rankin, Australia were unchanged for the fifth match in a row.