Head century puts Australia in firm command

Australia's Travis Head (right) celebrates his century during day two of the first Ashes cricket Test match between England and Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday. Agency photo
Australia's Travis Head (right) celebrates his century during day two of the first Ashes cricket Test match between England and Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday. Agency photo

AFP, Brisbane :
Travis Head blasted the third-fastest century in Ashes history to crush England hopes on the second day of the opening Test at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday.
At the close of play a dominant Australia were 343-7, a lead of 196 on England’s dismal first-innings total of 147.
Head was on 112, alongside Mitchell Starc, who was not-out 10, on another dispiriting day for England in Brisbane.
England had threatened a comeback after tea when Ollie Robinson took two wickets in consecutive balls, but Head’s aggressive innings put paid to any hopes of a miracle recovery.
The 27-year-old Head, controversially recalled to the Australia side ahead of veteran Usman Khawaja, justified his selection by passing 100 off only 85 balls.
He smashed two sixes and 12 fours in his century-the third-fastest in the Ashes behind only Adam Gilchrist’s 56-ball ton in Perth in 2006 and Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball effort at The Oval in 1902.
“I’m still pinching myself-I can’t quite work out what transpired over the past couple of hours,” Head said.
“I took some chances-technically and mentally I was really composed, really relaxed,” he added.
“I found the first 20 runs really tough, but the game opened up and I was able to take the chances, which is pleasing.”
Head attacked from the outset and was particularly harsh on spinners Jack Leach and Joe Root, the English skipper.
Head came to the crease with Australia 189-3 after Steve Smith edged Mark Wood to keeper Jos Buttler just before tea.
He then watched David Warner (94) and Cameron Green depart to Robinson’s accurate seamers after the break, with Australia still only 89 runs ahead.
Earlier, Warner rode his luck in the first two sessions.
The gritty Australian batsman was bowled by a no-ball by Ben Stokes before lunch, then dropped by Rory Burns in the first over after the break, before Haseeb Hameed bungled a simple run-out.
Warner’s good fortune began when Stokes bowled him when he was on 17, but the all-rounder had overstepped to give the Australian opener a mighty reprieve.
Television replays showed that Stokes had also overstepped on the first three balls of his over, but nothing was called.
It later transpired that technology issues were at the centre of the no-ball drama.
England needed to take all their chances to keep their hopes of salvaging anything from the first Test after their disastrous start on Wednesday, when they were bowled out in just 50.1 calamitous overs.
They started well when Robinson claimed his first Ashes wicket, Marcus Harris, with the score on 10.
England went into the Test without veteran seamers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, surprising many, including Australian captain Pat Cummins.
But the seam attack of Robinson, Chris Woakes and the outright pace of Wood were able to keep the Australian batters pinned down early on with some tight and accurate bowling.
Robinson was particularly dangerous and made the breakthrough when he enticed Harris to play forward to a ball that left him slightly, the Australian opener edging to second slip, where Dawid Malan took a good low catch.
England bowling coach Jon Lewis was full of praise for his seamers, especially Robinson, but said they needed to be more consistent.
“There was some really positive stuff, if you were critical you could say we needed to be a lot more consistent and there were times when the Australians got on top of us,” he said.
“(Robinson) threatened all the way through-every time he got the ball in his hand he looked a threat and I think the Australian batsmen found him hard to play.”
After Harris’s early exit, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne consolidated, but late in the second session Labuschagne sliced an attempted cut off Leach to Wood at backward point to fall for 74.
Soon after Wood, who bowled with real pace all day, gave England some cheer when he removed the dangerous Smith-so often England’s tormentor-in the penultimate over of the second session.
When Warner slapped a short Robinson ball to Stokes at short cover after tea and then Green shouldered arms and was bowled next ball, England must have had some belief.
But that was soon quashed by Head’s swashbuckling innings.