Whirlwind Head century justifies return

Australia's middle-order batter Travis Head has scored the third-fastest hundred in Ashes history.
Australia's middle-order batter Travis Head has scored the third-fastest hundred in Ashes history.

Travis Head chanced his arm then almost lost his head as he struck the third-fastest Ashes century to boldly seize back momentum for Australia at the Gabba.

The recalled South Australian only narrowly beat Usman Khawaja for the chance to play in Brisbane.

He's now solidified his spot in Australia's middle order, unbeaten on 112 after notching an 85-ball ton that propelled Australia from danger late on day two against a tiring England.

All his runs came in the final session, Head blazing 12 fours and two sixes after coming to the crease with Australia 3-189 and watching three quick wickets fall after tea.

The hosts finished the day 7-343, 196 runs clear of England's first innings total.

"I took some chances along the way and I found the first 20 runs really, really tough," Head, who was still trying to process his whirlwind innings, said after play.

"The game opened up, I was able to take my opportunity, but that's not going to happen all the time."

The milestone was quickly followed by a moment of madness when a searing Mark Wood beamer with the second new ball sent Head scrambling.

The wild delivery hit Head on the gloves and rebounded into the batter's chin under his helmet grill.

Head bounced to his feet to assure a concerned Wood he had escaped harm.

"I saw it pretty much the whole way; lucky my hand took a bit of it," Head said.

"After a couple of seconds I knew I was fine ... he's (Wood's) cool, I'm cool about it, we move on."

Earlier there was no sign of what was to come when Head was just six off 18 balls, before clicking into gear with a bruising pull shot off Ben Stokes.

It was the first of three boundaries in the allrounder's over, in what proved a crucial moment just as England had clawed their way back into the contest.

Head then took on the spin of Joe Root to accelerate past 50 and dominate a 70-run partnership with captain Pat Cummins (12).

Australia had sprinted past England's first innings of 147 thanks to a 156-run stand between David Warner's (94) and Marnus Labuschagne (74).

But the loss of Warner and Cameron Green (0) in successive balls livened up the contest, leaving Head to take the reins and push Australia beyond 300.

Australian Associated Press