Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day December 16, 2006

Australia scent Ashes after Gilchrist's second-fastest ton

England 215 and 19 for 1 (Cook 7*, Bell 9*) need 538 runs to beat Australia 244 and 5 for 527 dec (Clarke 135*, Hussey 103, Gilchrist 102*, Hayden 92, Ponting 74, Panesar 3-145)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out - Australia
How they were out - England

Adam Gilchrist is congratulated on his 57-ball century © Getty Images
Australia are on the verge of reclaiming the Ashes in emphatic style after Adam Gilchrist, who carved the second-fastest Test century, led the demolition of England's bowlers on the third day at Perth. His 57-ball assault built on more measured tons from Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke, leaving England with the almost impossible task of scoring 538 or batting two days to keep the series alive.

The series has barely passed the half-way mark and Australia are intent on settling the issue. England wilted under the intense Perth heat - which passed 50 degrees in the middle - and well before the Gilchrist-inspired 162-run stand in 20 overs were wearing the look that accompanied many English sides during their wait to regain the Ashes. Ricky Ponting's ruthless declaration gave his bowlers 25 minutes with the new ball and Brett Lee struck a predictable blow as Andrew Strauss padded up.

But that was a minor moment after what had just been witnessed. It seems harsh on Hussey and Clarke - their outstanding knocks meant Gilchrist was able to play without inhibition - but the day will be remembered for one innings. Despite his brisk half-century at Adelaide, the first-innings duck here suggested England's stranglehold over Gilchrist's form hadn't been broken. It took just an hour and half for him to prove otherwise.

His half-century arrived off 40 balls but that was just a precursor to an extraordinary display. The over in which he reached fifty - off Monty Panesar - went for 24 and he didn't threaten another defensive shot. Matthew Hoggard was also launched into the stands and it came down to him needing four off two balls to beat the record. However, Hoggard fired one wide of the stumps and Gilchrist could only manage a single off his 56th delivery. But with the next ball of the following over Gilchrist cemented his name between Richards and Jack Gregory and, not for the first time in the series, 2005 seemed a lifetime ago.

Hussey wasn't even involved 15 months ago - even then his omission amazed many people - and Clarke suffered second-season syndrome as he was found out by the swinging ball. Both had already proved their points in this series, but their centuries here were further examples of the hunger Australia have shown in the quest to regain the Ashes.

After reaching half-centuries in his first four innings in the series Hussey finally notched a maiden Ashes ton, number five overall in the run-laden start to his career. He in fact offered England more chances to remove him than at any other time but the opportunities were spurned. Geraint Jones should have left a top-edged pull for Kevin Pietersen when Hussey had 48 and then Strauss couldn't cling onto an edge at slip against the second new-ball. England will also feel he was out caught at bat-pad on 15, but between these scares Hussey was serene.

He reached his hundred off 148 balls with a dismissive pull past mid-off against Harmison and celebrated with the leap that has accompanied his other centuries. Panesar eventually removed his former Northamptonshire team-mate with the last ball before tea, but soon after the break England were probably wishing he hadn't as Clarke and - following a failure for Andrew Symonds - Gilchrist turned on the style.

Michael Hussey celebrates his first Ashes century © Getty Images
Clarke had survived an early stumping chance when Jones failed to cleanly collect a delivery that turned and bounced but other than that he was faultless. It was another fine innings from the maturing batsman, whose brisk footwork and quick hands ensured Australia never lost momentum. Despite a painful blow on the thumb from Harmison he launched into the new ball as 60 runs came from the first nine overs. His second hundred of the series arrived from 130 balls with a powerful cut behind square and a sign of the fireworks around the corner was that Gilchrist was on just 11 at the time.

England were a broken team well before Gilchrist kicked off but although the bowling figures are not a set for the family albums it was a whole-hearted effort. Harmison bounded in with his renewed confidence, although not quite a perfect radar, but the shining light was again Panesar. Bowling under different pressure than in the first innings he ended Matthew Hayden's fighting innings eight short of century. The turn and bounce that did for Symonds further highlighted the added dimension he brings to the attack. But the only turn and bounce he experienced against Gilchrist was the ball coming out of the stands.

The home side have been waiting to inflict a day like this on England since the moment celebrations began at The Oval last September. It took 16 years for the Ashes to return to English hands, but for Australia it has taken just 15 months to be on the brink of ending a very short loan period.

Short cuts

Hits of the day
Adam Gilchrist's three sixes in an over from Monty Panesar were the highlights of an awesome innings. Twenty-four came from the over and the Barmy Army supporters in outer at the Prindiville End were peppered with balls.

Bowling hits of the day
England have struggled to rattle Michael Hussey over the first three Tests but Steve Harmison managed it when he struck the batsman's helmet. It didn't lead to his dismissal, but it was a small breakthrough on another day of England despair.

Dismissal of the day
Paul Collingwood's volleyball set at first slip created an easy rebound and removed Matthew Hayden.

Forgotten man of the day
Michael Hussey gained attention for his efforts over the first two sessions, but Michael Clarke's superb century was totally overshadowed by the Gilchrist fireworks. Clarke's second hundred in two Tests confirms him as Australia's man of the future.

Missed opportunity of the day
Andrew Symonds. Again. This time he was out for 2, but Shane Watson's inability to recover from a hamstring strain means he might have another final chance in Melbourne.

Quote of the day
"When I took the job in South Africa we were 4 for 1 and we were criticised and it hasn't stopped." Duncan Fletcher

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo