PERTH – Steve Smith was unstoppable and Mitchell Marsh silenced his critics as Australia seized control with the bat on the third day of the crucial third Ashes Test in Perth on Saturday.
At tea the home side was 421/4 in their first innings, with Smith on 182 and Mitchell Marsh on 100, leading England by 18 runs with six wickets still in hand.
The Australian captain was rarely troubled by the English bowlers as he notched his second hundred of the series and closed in on his second Test double century.
It was his 22nd Test century and he also passed 1 000 runs for the calendar year during the innings.
Marsh came to the crease under huge pressure to perform after a contentious recall, having dropped a simple catch and bowled poorly during the England innings.
He started nervously, but blossomed as his innings went on and notched his maiden Test century from the penultimate over before tea on his home ground, sparking scenes of jubilation from a parochial crowd.
Australia lead the series 2-0 and can regain the Ashes with victory at the WACA Ground, but heavy rain is forecast for the final two days.
Smith resumed on 92 and wasted little time cruising to his hundred, notching the milestone by effortlessly working Jimmy Anderson (0/76) off his pads for a boundary.
It came from just 138 balls, the fastest century of his career in terms of balls faced.
Coming in his 107th Test knock, only Don Bradman (58 innings) and Sunil Gavaskar (101 innings) have reached 22 Test centuries in fewer innings.
The Australian captain played shots to all part of the ground and the only real discomfort for Smith was when he was struck on the left shoulder by Chris Overton (2/87) on 116.
Smith went to duck under a short ball, but it didn’t rise as sharply as he expected and caught him flush on the shoulder.
He also survived an ambitious lbw review from the bowling of Anderson on 135, when Chris Gaffaney gave him not out and replays confirmed the ball was clearly missing leg-stump.
There was another lbw review after Smith was again given not out to Anderson on 173, but replays showed it was a front foot no-ball.
The only man out for Australia was Marsh’s older brother, Shaun, who got a thin outside edge to spinner Moeen Ali (1/59) and was caught at slip by Joe Root for 28.