Australia took full advantage of a docile pitch and fast outfield at Chelmsford, batting throughout yesterday to score 561 for six in the drawn twoday match with Essex.
Five batsmen reached half-centuries, with Matthew Hayden and Brad Hodge progressing into sizeable hundreds while preparing for Thursday's decisive fifth and final Test match against England at the Oval.
Hayden has struggled this summer, scoring only 180 runs in eight innings with a top score of 36, but he scored an outstanding 150 before retiring "out" at lunch. Hodge, yet to be in the starting line-up against England, scored 166 to press his claims.
With Essex having declared on their overnight 502 for four, Alistair Cook scoring 214 and Ravinder Bopara 135, Hayden and fellow left-hander Justin Langer had an imposing opening stand of 213 in 33 overs against an attack for whom only Andre Nel offered any threat. Playing fluently, the opening pair executed delightful drives together with robust pulls.
Hayden's 50 took 55 balls and he needed only another 45 for his century, having struck 16 fours and two sixes.
Langer, with his century beckoning, was caught for 87 when pushing forward to offspinner James Middlebrook and was picked up by Cook at second slip.
Hayden was dropped on 125 and 134, both times on the boundary edge, and had scored 150 in the two-and-a-half-hour morning session, having faced 118 balls from which he struck 18 fours and seven sixes, before retiring at the interval with the total 244.
Simon Katich and Hodge added 134 runs in 26 overs before Katich, on 72, flirted with a widish delivery outside off stump to offer replacement wicketkeeper Mark Pettini a catch off Graham Napier.
Adam Gilchrist top-edged a pull to mid-wicket but Hodge, mixing the robust with carefully crafted strokes and effortless timing, reached his century from 119 balls (17 fours, one six).
He survived a straightforward caught-and-bowled chance to Napier on 74. Brad Haddin and Hodge had a brisk stand worth 161 in 25 overs. Having reached 150, Hodge blasted offspinner Tim Phillips for successive sixes before picking out James Foster at long off.