'I'm feeling really set at the crease' - Hayden
Matthew Hayden believes his stunning back-to-form surge of four centuries in consecutive Tests is due to the work he did in England to escape a career-threatening slump. As Hayden races towards 1000 runs in the calendar year - he currently has 978 - he has found the settled mindset that has been a crucial aspect of his global domination.
West Indies again felt the brunt of Hayden's blade as he struck 110 from 167 balls and with Michael Hussey, who is 113 not out, they battered an already frail line-up. Hayden was in danger of being dropped before the fifth Test in England, but he has thrived with the drop in opposition bowling intensity and became the third player alongside Don Bradman and Ken Barrington to score hundreds in four Tests in a row more than twice.
"In any of the games I've played this summer I've been strong," Hayden said. "It was great to refocus and refresh in England because I wasn't batting badly but I was caught all the time in the 30s. I didn't have the right strategy to push on with good balance and patience. What's happening now is from the hard work through the Ashes series and I'm feeling really set at the crease."
Hayden's 11-fours and one-six display contained bouts of powerful aggression and solid defence, although he admitted he was not yet as intimidating as during his pre-slump heavy-hitting. "I'm still swimming between the flags at this stage," he said. "Sometimes today I drifted out a bit for a while and Huss wanted to know what I was doing."
Australia's new and temporary opening combination posted a 231-run stand and while the partners clicked successfully their understanding cannot match the level Hayden has attained with the rib-injured Justin Langer. When Hayden threatened to move out of control Hussey approached his team-mate like the office junior to ask: "Can I talk to you? Is there anything you need me to say?"
Hayden was just happy to be watching Hussey reach his first Test century and gave him a huge hug when he passed three figures with a leg glance and celebratory leap. "Mike scoring a hundred was really special and it's so nice to see the reaction," he said. "My hundred was definitely second to this experience."
The wait for an opening showed in Hussey's nervy opening match at Brisbane but he was more relaxed preparing for this match and it showed. "I'm elated," Hussey said. "It's really nice to play at this level but it's also important to succeed and I'm really content." He knows he will be replaced by Langer when he regains fitness and spoke to him before the Test to congratulate his state team-mate on the birth of his fourth daughter.
Only Corey Collymore restricted the Australians' run flow as his fast-bowling partners sprayed the ball, and he dismissed Hayden to claim figures of 1 for 34 off 17 overs. At the Gabba Ricky Ponting called him a "mini-McGrath" and today Hayden said he was like Malcolm Marshall. "He's bowled well for two Tests and he can swing the ball around," Hayden said. "It was a bit hard for him today as the ball was wet and there were two guys in nick."
Despite a rain delay of almost three hours, Australia's lead stands at 107 with nine wickets remaining and Hayden said the plan was to push it towards 300. "I think you'll see us bat all day tomorrow and maybe have a crack at them late in the day."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo