England saw a brilliant start slip through their fingers in the final Ashes Test, with Travis Head’s outstanding century and an injury to Ollie Robinson helping shift the momentum.
After winning the toss under gloomy skies in the day/night clash at Hobart, England reduced Australia to 12 for three as Stuart Broad and Robinson excelled with the new pink ball.
But Head marked his return from a bout of Covid-19 with a fearless 101, crashing 12 boundaries and guiding his side to 215 for five at the evening break.
He fell immediately after bringing up his second ton of the series but by then England had already seen their bright beginnings give way to familiar frustration.
Their resources were stretched to the breaking point during the second session, with Robinson suffering a lower back injury during his first over.
He returned to the field but not the attack and, with all-rounder Ben Stokes bringing a side strain into the game, England were reduced to just three fit bowlers.
Only one, Broad, was able to keep a lid on things, with Chris Woakes and Mark Wood both getting brutal treatment.
Australia will look to cash in further under night skies, with Cameron Green well placed to pick up the baton from Head on 57 not out.
Things had started so well after skipper Joe Root sent the Australians in, Robinson claiming a prize double by dismissing David Warner and Steve Smith for ducks. Both men were caught by Zak Crawley in the cordon but, in between, he made a costly error.
Marnus Labuschagne had also failed to trouble the scorers and nicked his second ball, which would have carried to Root comfortably at first slip had Crawley not leapt in front of him and fumbled the chance.
Broad circled back to remove Usman Khawaja for six – a sharp bump back to earth after his twin centuries at the SCG – but Labuschagne used his good fortune to launch a counter attack.
He went after almost every ball in a bid to reverse the pressure and pinged a handful of boundaries to lead a rapid fifty stand with Head.
The number five produced a couple of miscues early on, and would have felt fortunate to see a couple of aerial shots land safe, but it was him who would carry on the assault.
Labuschagne fell in bizarre fashion just before the break, lunging well outside off to leave his middle stump exposed. Broad duly knocked it back while the world’s number one batter got himself in a fearful tangle that ended with him falling face first on to the turf as England celebrated.
That sent the tourists in with a sense of optimism, but that evaporated as soon as Robinson’s issues became apparent. His speed dipped to just 70mph as it became clear all was not well, and he headed back to the dressing room for assessment as soon as he completed the over.
With Wood and Woakes leaking runs, Head smashing the ball liberally with stunning hand-eye co-ordination and Root’s part-time off-spin required to fill in the spare overs, the game drifted horribly in the middle session.
Australia piled on another 130 runs with their listless opponents only carried through by the chipper performance of debutant Sam Billings behind the stumps.
Head saw a leading edge float agonisingly over Woakes on 99, reached three figures with a neat chop for two off the very next ball and then skied a catch to Robinson as he patrolled the mid-on area.
It was a brief flurry of activity in a game that was ebbing away from England, who were waiting in vain for some inspiration.