Two wickets from Josh Hazlewood and almost nine hours of game-changing graft from unbeaten centurion Steve Smith mean Australia are back in the contest in the Ashes opener.

Captain Joe Root weathered a bouncer blow to the helmet from Mitchell Starc to help England reach 33-2 at stumps on day three of the first Test in Brisbane for the visitors to hold a seven-run lead.

Hazlewood removed Alastair Cook (seven) and James Vince (two) for a combined nine runs during his opening spell.

Root, who was temporarily rattled on Saturday by the 144km/h bumper, will resume on five as he bids to better the composure and concentration his counterpart had demonstrated in a knock of 141 not out.

Advertisement

Smith fashioned a total of 328 and a first-innings lead of 26 runs, digging in early then willing a wagging tail to add 119 runs for the final three wickets.

It was a fair achievement given his side slipped to 76-4 on day two, then 209-7 early on day three at the Gabba, threatening to collapse into ignominy yet again.

Pat Cummins impressed in a knock of 42, while England bowlers Moeen Ali and Jimmy Anderson both appeared to be restricted by niggles.

Smith was summoned to the middle on Friday after only 10.3 overs and didn't offer a single chance, even though he adopted a more aggressive approach in the final stages of Australia's innings that spanned 130.3 overs.

The gifted batsman, who reacted with typical fervent to every wide, wicket, boundary and blunder, has attracted comparisons to Allan Border in the past because of his negative body language.

The ongoing match has offered more-positive parallels. Smith carried the run- scoring burden without blinking, blunting an on-song attack to reach three figures after 261 deliveries.

The milestone, every bit as resolute as Border's 273-ball ton in 1987, was celebrated with a flurry of emotions. Smith roared as he beat the coat of arms on his chest, demanding his teammates in the stands to step up.

Root often asked his quicks to bowl short to Smith. He tinkered with fields like a crazed professor but couldn't come up with the formula to conjure the elusive and all-important wicket.

Scoreboard