Steve Smith posted his first hundred on home soil to help Australia recover from another stuttering top-order performance and reach 326-6 at stumps on Friday on day one of the third Ashes test.
After winning the toss and batting for the third consecutive test, Australia slumped to 143-5 before Smith combined with vice-captain Brad Haddin (55) in a 124-run, sixth-wicket stand. He was unbeaten on 103 at stumps, batting with Mitchell Johnson (39 not out).
England had the upper hand when Graeme Swann (2-71) dismissed Michael Clarke (24) and David Warner (60) on either side of lunch and then Stuart Broad (2-78) removed George Bailey (7), but Haddin came to the rescue again with his fourth consecutive half century.
Australia has won the first two tests and is aiming to regain the Ashes with victory at the WACA, where England’s last win was in 1978.
Smith played five matches in the 2010-11 Ashes series defeat but didn’t play another test for more than two years until he was recalled for the losing tours to India and England from March to August.
And after taking 16 balls to get off the mark, Smith opened his account with a driven six off Swann. He followed that with another six and 13 boundaries in a 191-ball innings highlighted by excellent footwork to the spinners and timing against the seamers.
The fast, bouncy wicket was expected to favor the pacemen but the English attack struggled to maintain the right length for much of the opening day and conceded 43 boundaries and five sixes. The Australians offset the rapid run-scoring, though, by losing wickets at regular intervals with some poorly judged shotmaking.
Chris Rogers (11) was run out attempting a needless single by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end by Jimmy Anderson from mid-on with the total at 13, and Broad enticed an edge from Shane Watson (18), with Swann taking a superb catch above his head at second slip, to make it 52-2.
Warner and Clarke combined in a 54-run third-wicket stand and were on top of the England bowlers when Cook brought offspinner Swann into the attack six minutes before the end of the morning session.
The move gave Cook first blood in the battle of the 100-test captains, when he held a catch at short midwicket after Clarke danced down the wicket to Swann’s second ball. Clarke, who scored hundreds in Brisbane and Adelaide, was later unveiled as the International Cricket Council’s player of the year.
Warner plundered eight fours and a six, playing mostly off the back foot, before picking the wrong ball from Swann to cut and skewing a catch to Michael Carberry at backward point.
Broad softened up George Bailey (7) with two bouncers before the Australian No. 6 top-edged another short ball to Kevin Pietersen at deep backward square, bringing Haddin to the crease.
The Australian wicketkeeper helped lift the total to 267, hitting two sixes and five boundaries in another gritty rearguard stand, before he mistimed a short ball from Ben Stokes to Jimmy Anderson at midwicket.
Cook and Clarke each received a special cap before play to commemorate their 100th test matches.
Brief scores: Australia 326-6 (Steve Smith 103 not out, David Warner 60, Brad Haddin 55; Graeme Swann 2-71, Stuart Broad 2-78).