Hussey and Haddin put Australia in command
England 260 and 0 for 19 (Strauss 11*, Cook 6*) trail Australia 481 (Hussey 195, Haddin 136, Finn 6-125) by 202 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin wrote themselves a place in the history books with a monumental 307-run partnership as Australia took a firm grip on the opening Test in Brisbane. The mammoth stand was a record for any wicket at the Gabba and steered the home side towards a formidable lead of 221 as Hussey hit a career-best 195. Following hours of toil, Steven Finn provided England a late boost with a career-best six wickets, but it's a huge task for them to avoid beginning their Ashes defence with defeat.
Facing a tough hour, Andrew Strauss survived a huge appeal lbw first ball when he padded up to Ben Hilfenhaus and Ricky Ponting asked for a review but it had been correctly ruled to be heading over the stumps. However, it was a heart-in-mouth moment for Strauss, who was on a pair until he tucked a single to square leg. He and Alastair Cook fought hard to get through to the close, yet it's only the start of what has to be a huge rearguard and at least two batsmen need to follow the lead of Hussey and Haddin.
Their stand will go down in Ashes folklore and finished second to the 346 added by Don Bradman and Jack Fingleton in 1936-37 in Australian partnerships against England. Hussey played like the man who dominated world cricket for three years after his debut before the lean time that brought his career into doubt. He reached his 12th Test century off 197 balls and celebrated with a huge release of raw emotion. It meant consecutive Ashes hundreds after his futile 121 at The Oval in 2009, but this one has given his team a huge advantage and has put to bed any debate about his place in the team.
Haddin's innings was his finest at Test level because of the way he adjusted his game to weather an early barrage from the new ball before blossoming towards a 222-ball hundred, which he reached with a straight six off Graeme Swann. He was given a life on 63, with Australia just 39 ahead, when Cook spilled a tough chance and another on 113 when James Anderson dropped a top-edged pull as England's fielding showed a few cracks - a bit like the Gabba surface - before eventually being well caught at slip to end the visitors' 93-over wait for a wicket.
Finn then nipped in for a commendable six-wicket haul, but the pick of England's attack by a mile was Anderson, who somehow went wicketless during a brilliant morning burst in a period of play that is likely to define this Test. On 82, Hussey was given lbw by Aleem Dar, but instantly called for the review and was correctly reprieved as the ball had pitched outside leg stump. Then another shout, with the batsman on 85, was stone dead only for Dar to say not out as he heard two noises - which proved to be both pads - yet England had no reviews left themselves.
Anderson wore a rueful smile, and shared a few words with the batsmen, but continued to have the ball on a string with a succession of unplayable deliveries. The opening 10 overs of the day went for just 13 runs and the first boundary didn't arrive until Haddin drove Finn straight after 50 minutes play.
That was a signal for Haddin to play a few more shots, having had to battle against his natural instincts to repel the early barrage. He late cut Finn through gully then drove Anderson on the rise over mid-off as Australia closed in on England's disappointing 260. Anderson finished an eight-over spell at the cost of 14, but it was the perfect example of when statistics don't even tell half the story.
Haddin's aggression took Australia into the lead and Hussey moved through the 90s when he used his feet against Swann in the offspinner's opening over. Moments later, Hussey had his landmark and the ground went wild with similar ferocity as greeted Peter Siddle's opening-day hat-trick.
England's story of near-misses continued when Cook couldn't quite back-pedal under a high catch offered by Haddin as he drove aggressively at Paul Collingwood's first delivery. The importance of Haddin's innings can't be overstated because if the lower order had been exposed to the new ball England would have sensed their opportunity.
The pitch was still good for batting, but the widening cracks and hint of occasional balls disturbing the surface emphasised the importance of the lead. After lunch, the pair put their foot on England's throat with dominant batting as the visitors became increasingly forlorn. A problem for Strauss was that Swann remained below his best and was comfortably picked off by Hussey and Haddin.
They ticked off a host of records including the 276 added by Bradman and Lindsay Hassett against England in 1946 as the best stand on the ground, which was brought up with an inside edge past the stumps by Haddin off Anderson, and also into second place for Ashes sixth-wicket partnerships. After two wicketless sessions, thoughts turned to whether Australia would declare in the evening, but that decision was taken out of Ponting's hands as England showed resilience.
Swann pushed one across Haddin from around the wicket and Collingwood showed sharp reflexes, then Hussey was removed five short of a maiden Test double when he miscued a pull to deep midwicket. It had been a profitable shot throughout the innings and he left to another standing ovation.
Mitchell Johnson had been padded up all day and couldn't get off the mark during an uncomfortable 19-ball stay before he missed a drive and Siddle was early on a pull which he gloved to slip to give Finn his third five-wicket haul. Xavier Doherty (16) suggested he can provide useful runs down the order until handing Finn his sixth as the last five wickets fell for 31. England's bowlers did a good job against top and bottom of Australia's, but one magnificent partnership dominated the innings.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo