Hayden's hundred puts Australia in control
Close Australia 372 for 3 (Hayden 183*, Waugh 61*)
Another Hayden masterclass © Getty
Matthew Hayden, reportedly battling a back problem that almost prevented him from playing, unleashed a century of outstanding quality which contained all the elements of batsmanship that have made him one of the most dominant destroyers on the world stage over the last few years. By the close, Australia had marched to 372 for 3, with Hayden unbeaten on 183. The unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 173 with Steve Waugh utterly demoralised Zimbabwe, who had fought hard for a semblance of parity in the first two sessions.
Hayden attacked early on, to gain the ascendancy, then anchored the innings through potential danger before finishing off the day with an assault that bordered on the sublime. He took 308 minutes and 210 balls to reach his 15th Test century, but needed just 32 more deliveries to speed past 150. It was a brutal decimation of an impotent attack, with the prospect of more punishment tomorrow.
The day had started on an emotional note with 88 seconds of silence in memory of the 88 victims of the Bali bombings, which happened a year ago on Sunday. There was also a presentation of medallions to both teams in honour of the first match in Australia between these sides, and a special greeting for the umpires and the referee as part of the Australian Sports Commission's Year of the Official.
The way Australia started, it seemed as if they were on a time bonus to complete the match within three days. Hayden and Justin Langer scored at six an over with some audacious strokeplay, more in keeping with the final session of a day than the start. High risk brings greater demand for execution, and when Langer had made 26 he failed to cover a ball that he played defensively onto his stumps off an inside edge. Sean Ervine's medium-pace had done what Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut's superior speed had not been able to achieve.
Further success came just after lunch when Ervine trapped Ricky Ponting in front for 37. Throughout it all, Hayden was immovable. He reined in the aggression when Langer departed, and it wasn't until after he had scored his century that he opened out.
Damien Martyn came in and rattled off a quickfire 53 from 76 balls before he edged one to slip off Trevor Gripper's gentle offspin. But with Steve Waugh settling in, there was no more respite for Zimbabwe. After a period of consolidation just after tea, Hayden and Waugh lifted the scoring tempo with imperceptible ease. Hayden reached his century, and then moved into another realm.
Zimbabwe's attack was ill-equipped to contain the power and intent of the Australians. If Streak thought the second new ball might rescue his day, and the decision to bowl first, reality was less than one over away. Hayden took 14 runs from the first over - a four to cover, another to midwicket and six over long-on. In between, he copped a severe blow to his left knee when he pulled the ball down onto it, leaving him hobbling in pain.
For Ervine, there was some comfort with two wickets for 56 but, in all likelihood, Australia have already done enough to wrap up this match quickly. However, as long as Hayden maintains his desire, the prospects for individual records are limitless. And then there's the small matter of Perth being the only current Test ground in Australia on which Waugh hasn't scored a century ... yet. The omens aren't that great for Zimbabwe ahead of the second day.