(Reuters) -Travis Head returned from COVID-19 to smash a belligerent 101 and Cameron Green made 74 to revive Australia after a top-order collapse on the opening day of the day-night final Ashes test against England on Friday.
England’s all-seam attack had reduced Australia to 12-3 in a strong start for the tourists, who have already lost the five-test series following heavy defeats in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Head put on 71 with Marnus Labuschagne (44) and added 121 with Green as Australia reached 241-6 before rain forced early stumps in the pink-ball contest at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval.
Alex Carey will resume on 10 on day two with Mitchell Starc, who was yet to open his account.
“Anything over 300 and I think it’s going to be a great start,” Head told reporters.
“The conditions, pink ball… it’s (pitch) probably more bowler-friendly.
“So anything over 300 and batting as long as we possibly can tomorrow is going to be key and when we bowl, making sure we identify the moments with the ball.”
Earlier, England’s seamers blew away Australia’s top order in a frenetic first session, vindicating captain Joe Root’s decision to field under an overcast sky.
Australia dropped Marcus Harris to accommodate both fit-again Head and Usman Khawaja, who scored twin hundreds in the last test in Sydney batting in the middle order.
Ollie Robinson broke through in the sixth over when Zak Crawley took a catch at second slip to send back David Warner for a 22-ball duck.
Crawley spilled Labuschagne off Robinson before the batsman had scored, diving to his left in what could have been a regular catch for Root at first slip.
Khawaja edged Stuart Broad to depart for six, and Crawley made no mistake when Robinson induced an edge from Steve Smith, who fell for a duck.
Labuschagne went on the attack, flicking Chris Woakes for a six before a bizarre dismissal. The right-hander shuffled outside the off stump and overbalanced. Broad’s delivery clattered onto his stumps.
Head raced to a 112-ball century but fell immediately afterwards, offering a leading edge to Robinson at mid-on trying to hit Woakes over mid-wicket.
Head’s second century of the series contained 12 boundaries.
Mark Wood bounced out Green for 74, the all-rounder’s second fifty of the series, before rain interrupted play.
England suffered another injury blow after Robinson suffered a back spasm that limited his bowling to only eight overs.
“Those things can come and go. We’re hoping with treatment overnight, he can come back tomorrow, be fit enough to bowl tomorrow,” fast bowling coach Jon Lewis told reporters.
“We bowled fantastically well up front but felt movement went out the ball completely after about 20 overs,” he said in his assessment of their bowling effort.
Sam Billings made his test debut for England replacing the injured Jos Buttler behind the stumps.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Timothy Heritage and Toby Davis)