Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2006

Hayden and Symonds punish England

Close Australia 7 for 372 (Symonds 154*, Warne 4*) lead England 159 by 213 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Andrew Symonds celebrates his maiden Test hundred with Matthew Hayden, who also scored a century © Getty Images

In the space of two sessions on the second day at Melbourne, the most closely fought contest of the summer was transformed into the stage for the biggest rout yet, as Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds flogged the final vestiges of resistance out of England's demoralised bowlers. After coming together with their side in all sorts of trouble at 5 for 84, Hayden and Symonds compiled a gargantuan partnership of 279, the sixth-highest sixth-wicket stand in Test history, and second only at the MCG to Bradman and Fingleton's immortal alliance of 346 in 1936-37.

It was an uncompromising onslaught, conducted by two burly Queenslanders whose best performances have more than just a hint of the bully about them. Each man was made to struggle early on - Hayden survived on his wits (and the whims of umpire Rudi Koertzen) during a dogged examination from Matthew Hoggard last night, while Symonds, facing his acid test as a Test No. 6, needed 21 balls to get off the mark before lunch today. But once their eyes were in and their pink-handled blades began to swing, England found they had no place to turn whatsoever.

Hayden was eventually caught behind off Sajid Mahmood for 153 after seven hours of merciless accumulation. It was his highest score against England since his brutal 197 at Brisbane in 2002-03, when he was in his absolute pomp as a batsman, and it was his fifth century in six appearances at the MCG, an amphitheatre of a ground that appeals to his gladiatorial instincts. Symonds, meanwhile, registered an emotional maiden Test hundred that he completed with a monstrous swipe for six off Paul Collingwood and a gleeful leap into his partner's arms. His relief was tangible after 11 Tests in which he had failed to convince either himself or his detractors that he has what it takes at this level.

By the close, however, Symonds was still ruling the roost on 154 not out - a total that was more than twice as many as his previous highest in Tests, 72, on this same ground last year against South Africa, when Hayden was once again his partner-in-crime. The anxiety he had betrayed in his early loose swishes against Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff was replaced by a loose-gaited swagger that he himself had recognised as the missing link in his bid to transform his domineering one-day form into the Test arena. Fourteen cudgelled fours and a six later, he had achieved his single most cherished ambition.

A rare failure for Michael Hussey was part of an eventful morning session © Getty Images

The fact that it was achieved in such uncompromising circumstances was even more of an accolade than any of the runs he accumulated. By the time Adam Gilchrist had fallen for 1 late in the day, caught swishing at Mahmood (from round the wicket inevitably), Symonds and Hayden's stand of 279 was worth more than the match's other 16 wickets (245) had managed between them.

Three of those wickets had fallen in a lively and, for England, uplifting morning session. After resuming on 2 for 48, Australia went to lunch teetering at 5 for 111. Quick wickets had been their requirement in the early overcast conditions, and it was the captain, Flintoff, who obliged in the seventh over of the morning. Ricky Ponting, who had been tied down by some tight and attacking bowling, attempted a wild and uncharacteristic pull to a delivery miles outside off stump, and sent a top-edge spiralling to Alastair Cook at wide mid-on.

Ponting was gone for 7, only his second failure in seven innings this series, and when Michael Hussey - whose lowest score of the series had been his unbeaten 61 in the run-chase at Adelaide - was bowled through the gate by a Hoggard inswinger for 6, England were right back in contention. Steve Harmison then struck with his second ball as Michael Clarke grazed a leaping off-stump delivery to the keeper, but that was as far as England's momentum would take them.

England's efforts remained unstinting, but their luck was seriously lacking, with Monty Panesar especially unfortunate to be denied when Symonds, on 52, was struck on the back pad plumb in front of middle. Umpire Koertzen, who has been in a non-giving mood since shaving off his Father Christmas beard, was not convinced. In the same over, Panesar was deposited by Hayden into the Southern Stand for a straight six, as Australia's biggest hitters began their bloodletting.

Short cuts

Play of the day
Andrew Symonds' launch of the Paul Collingwood delivery into the members' area at mid-on to bring up his first Test century. He had waited 96 runs for his opening six - it will always be memorable.

Ball of the day
Steve Harmison's second effort of the innings to remove Michael Clarke. It angled in and moved away enough to collect Clarke's edge, but it was his only success of the day.

Good day
The National Breast Cancer Foundation is benefiting from every run Matthew Hayden makes during the series and each boundary Andrew Symonds pounds during this Test. During the first innings they have earned $3060 through Hayden and $1600 from Symonds.

Bad day
Gray-Nicolls, the bat sponsor of Hayden and Symonds, which is paying out the money.

Appeal of the day
Monty Panesar jumped, skipped, hopped and pleaded with Rudi Koertzen to win an lbw decision off Matthew Hayden on 131, but the umpire didn't budge. Koertzen was right this time, but should have raised his finger when Symonds was sweeping on 52.

Numbers of the day
Day one of the Test earned a new record for Channel 9 in Australia with 1.68 million people watching England being dismissed for 159. The crowd for day two at the ground was 75,770, about 20,000 short of capacity, and the disappointing turnout in the members' area has allowed the Melbourne Cricket Club to relax its entrance regulations.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo