Australia's captain Steven Smith has said he needed patience and resilience to achieve one of his finest Test hundreds, after what he described as England's tactics becoming "pretty defensive, pretty early".
Smith scored the slowest century of his Test career, reaching the milestone from his 261st delivery, to help Australia move from a shaky 4 for 76 to all out for 328, giving them an unexpected 26-run first-innings advantage. After finishing unbeaten on 141, Smith said his innings was up there with his best in Test cricket, given the situation of the game in the first Test of an Ashes campaign.
"It'd be up there, definitely," Smith said. "With the team in a bit of trouble I had to try and bat some time and dig really deep. It was nice to put on a few partnerships with Shaun [Marsh] and Patty Cummins at the back end there, I thought he played really well.
"I just had to fight really hard, get through difficult periods and just keep batting. There were some reasonably defensive fields set, so boundaries were quite hard to come by. So it was just about getting off strike and waiting for the balls in my areas and being really disciplined, and I thought I did that really well.
"We've got ourselves into a reasonable spot, being 30 in front. We didn't look like we were going to get there, for a while. It just meant a lot. Ashes series are always huge. As the captain I want to try and lead from the front as much as I can with my performance and the way I bat ... I had to work really hard and be really disciplined and resilient. To get through those periods and get to a position where we are now, it's relatively pleasing."
Almost from the moment he walked to the crease, Smith found himself confronted by unusual Test-match fields, as England captain Joe Root placed several men on the boundary to restrict Smith's scoring opportunities. A similar tactic worked against David Warner, who fell trying to force the scoring rate, but Smith showed the patience required to work through the challenge.
"I thought they were pretty defensive from the outset," he said. "It was almost as though they were waiting for our batters to make a mistake. Unfortunately four [batsmen] ... to get to 4 for 70, made those mistakes. But it felt like it was very defensive. It might be a series where boundaries might be hard to come by, but if you bat for long enough you'll rotate the strike and you'll get bad balls as the bowlers get tired. But I thought they were pretty defensive pretty early."
England fast bowler Stuart Broad said the tactics had been clearly conceived against Smith, who he said was more vulnerable outside off than to straighter deliveries.
"He doesn't seem to get out lbw or bowled too much," Broad said. "We've looked at all his dismissals in Australia in the past four years ... a lot of the best batsmen in the world, when you look at them, don't miss straight balls, do they? They don't get out lbw and bowled a huge amount.
"It's the outside edge that's his biggest threat. Someone said in the change room last night, he only scored one out of his first 100 balls in the off side. So he was incredibly patient. But if we get a pitch with any sideways movement and a bit more pace, it brings the edge into play."
Smith's efforts left Australia in a much stronger position at stumps on day three than might otherwise have been the case, with England seven runs in front but two wickets down in their second innings. Australia have not lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988.