Hussey and Hayden hammer tons
Michael Hussey and Matthew Hayden dodged raindrops, basked in the intermittent sunshine and cracked centuries at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart to push West Indies firmly onto the back foot on the second day of the second Test. Australia's openers ensured that Justin Langer, out of the side with a broken rib, was not missed in the least as they put on a deliciously well compiled 231 for the first wicket, taking Australia to 256 for 1 and a lead of 107 by the end of the day.
It's never easy for a batsman to give off his best when his rhythm and concentration are interrupted by weather breaks. The whole of the first session was lost due to rain, and this meant Hussey and Hayden were sitting in the change-rooms all padded up and nowhere to go, and that can prey on the mind. But Hussey knows all about waiting - it was 176 prolific first-class matches and plenty of time in and out of the squad before he finally got his Test cap - and boy did he make it count. The spontaneous release of emotions pent up over ten long years of patient work on the hard track that is the WACA was a sight to behold as he tickled Fidel Edwards to the fine-leg boundary to bring up his century.
On a pitch freshened up by all the moisture in and around the ground, Hussey batted with confidence and authority. Despite being dismissed playing the pull in the first Test at the Gabba, he was unafraid to play the pull, and hook, and several of these strokes that screamed to the fence in front of square bore the stamp of a batsman who believed in himself. When the ball was pitched up he was no less dismissive, crunching the ball through cover - both straight and wide - with a free swing of the bat.
In all the excitement over Hussey, however, there is no underestimating the innings Hayden played. In bringing up his 24th Test century, he notched up four hundreds in as many Tests for the second time in his career. From the time the first ball of the day was bowled, with Australia on 60 for no loss, Hayden refused to let one ball go past him without his permission. When he defended, that front foot was planted firmly down the pitch, and the broad bat punched the ball firmly back towards the bowler. And he was patient long enough to force the West Indian bowlers to try something different, and that inevitably resulted in loose deliveries. Hayden, as is his wont when on song, wasted no time in collaring the loose stuff, driving with beastly power through cover, and thumping the ball in his bully-boy fashion.
It's a tribute to the manner in which Hayden and Hussey built their partnership that you barely noticed all the time lost. The session from lunch to tea yielded 63 runs from 18 careful overs where wickets were carefully guarded. Soon after the break, though, as the weather eased out, both opened their shoulders and waded into the bowling. For an extended period the scoring-rate was well past seven per over, and even at the end, when West Indies had pegged things back through Corey Collymore and Chris Gayle, 143 runs came from 30 overs.
West Indies enjoyed a brief moment of joy towards the end of the day when Hayden, on 110, waltzed down the pitch and flicked Collymore straight to Dwayne Bravo at midwicket. Finally the opening stand had been broken, but not before there was 231 on the board, and Australia had a lead of 82. Ricky Ponting then walked out to loud cheers at his home ground, and ensured that the good work done by the openers did not go in vain. There was little doubting Hussey's hunger to keep going. After reaching hundred, and celebrating with great gusto - and only the most churlish of critics would deny him that - he re-marked his guard, re-focussed himself on the job at hand, and just kept going, ending the day on 116 not out, with 18 boundaries. Then again, when a man's waited as long as Hussey has, and finally got what he's wanted, he's not exactly going to throw it away, is he?
Matthew Hayden c Bravo b Collymore 110 (231 for 1)
Came down the wicket and punched to midwicket
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo