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

Hayden 'a pillar of strength' for Symonds

Andrew Symonds: "I knew I'd got it, but I didn't know it was six until the end" © Getty Images

Matthew Hayden equalled Allan Border's 27 centuries on day two at the MCG but he was much happier with the first Test hundred of his old mate Andrew Symonds. Hayden posted 153 in a partnership of 279 with Symonds as they rescued Australia from 5 for 84 to give them a lead of 213 by stumps.

While Hayden got his fifth century in the past six MCG Tests, it was Symonds' unbeaten 154 that was Hayden's highlight. The men have been team-mates at Queensland for more than a decade and have spent many weeks hunting, fishing and camping, and their celebration for Symonds' century was so forceful it gave Hayden a grazed forehead.

"I had 98 kilos bearing down on the top of the helmet and I've got a bit of a scar," Hayden said. "I rejoiced in Andrew's achievement. The first Test hundred is incredible and being part of it was one of the highlights of my career."

Symonds brought up his century with a six off Paul Collingwood after debating the merits of edging towards the mark or bringing it up in one shot. "When I was a handful away I was talking to myself, thinking should I do this in ones? Or if he slips one up there should I give it some Larry Dooley?" Symonds said. "I decided if he slips one up there I'd give it some. I knew I'd got it, but I didn't know it was six until the end.

"I felt like I let a lot of emotion out when I celebrated. I've done a lot of things with Matty over the years with my cricket and my life and it was very fitting to do it with him. He was a pillar of strength for me, reining me in if I was losing focus. He was a huge help."

Hayden was pleased to play guidance counsellor for Symonds throughout the innings as they extinguished England's hopes after the visitors had briefly got back into the game. "I was really interested in making sure Symmo was on his way and when he reached his hundred it was the celebration I wanted to have for him," he said. "When I got to 150 that was for me."

After a slow start to the third phase of his Test career, Symonds was again under pressure to break through with the bat. It was a similar scenario in the 2003 World Cup when he went from exciting fringe player to first-choice squad member following his century against Pakistan. Hayden said Symonds was at his best when he was "under the pump".

"Symmo is a true warrior," Hayden said. "He's a big-match player, which is why he's so good at one-day cricket. With the big crowds, the big events, he rises to the occasion. Andrew took the opportunity to make the MCG look like a postal stamp."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo