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by Peter English
Orderly queues snaked away from the water fountains as the temperature rose. At every interval the clever supporters sought any sort of shade. From the first over hastily-constructed fans were waved on the hills, but they were soon discarded as discomfort was preferred to conserve energy. In the middle session, when Michael Hussey was sweating on his fifth century, the mercury peaked at 39 degrees Celsius and even the batsman was affected by the heat.
Hussey has not failed in five innings against England but this was his most scratchy display. It was also his first Ashes hundred, building on a sequence of four half-centuries, and it was a commendable performance under examining conditions. In the mass of compliments heading Hussey's way another can be added. He is difficult to conquer even when below his best.
England had opportunities but with each miss they wilted like the spectators who escaped to the neighbouring gardens for relief. Drinks were taken every forty minutes and no amount of moisture could re-hydrate the tourists. They struggled, but so did Hussey, and his ability to fight through the subdued patches added to his rapidly expanding status.
"I was definitely going through some times mentally when I was fighting with myself," he said. "I was thinking too far ahead and getting caught up in rubbish. It was very hot, very oppressive and I came in at lunch time almost deflated."
Australia's lead was ballooning by the hundreds and after posting his fifth consecutive fifty the lure of an ice block and an ice bath in the dressing-room must have been attractive. Spurred by his home supporters, who were seeing him for the second time in a Test, and watched by his young family, Hussey grafted through the dropped catches, near misses, an umpiring error and a clang on the helmet from Steve Harmison.
On the Swan River boats powered along out the back of the ground and spectators inside the fences wished to be cooled by their wake. Hussey surged in spurts and kept the local spirits high as England sunk closer to a 3-0 Ashes drowning.
The pull had been Hussey's most destructive vice and he blasted into the 90s with consecutive boundaries through midwicket. The shot was again on show as he brought up his century and the Perth crowd, which was also reinvigorated by the strengthening breeze, rose to pay tribute.
As the ball careered straight down the ground Hussey began a celebration that was eventful but muted compared to those from his growing list of milestones. After 148 balls there was a yell, a double-arm raise, a fist pump, a bat point to his loved ones and waves of relief. The conditions had eased but, as Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist showed later when they reached triple figures in quicker times, it was too hot for too many antics.
In Brisbane Hussey fell 14 short of a century and in the first innings at Adelaide he needed another nine. Two unbeaten half-centuries in pressure-filled occasions followed before he reached the mark he had deserved in the previous five attempts. For Hussey it was a day for a hundred and nothing more, his innings ending with an edge off Monty Panesar for 103. He was unhappy to leave but it was time for a satisfying drink and a peek at the destruction caused by Gilchrist.
Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket