Strength was Matthew Hayden's strength - both mental and physical. It enabled him to shrug off years of carping that he was technically too limited for Test cricket because of the way he played around his front pad, and it enabled him to touch rarefied heights of batsmanship. Before his maiden first-class innings, he asked if anyone had made 200 on debut, then went out and hit 149. The runs rarely abated over the next 17 years. Tall, powerful and equipped with concentration befitting the fisherman and surfer that he is, he battered the ball at and through the off side for days at a time. He has also made himself a fine catcher in the slips and gully.
Hayden's earliest Tests were exclusively against South Africa and West Indies, a trial for any opener. They were not auspicious, but patience and willpower won the day, especially after the tour of India in 2000-01, where he slog-swept his way to 549 runs, an Australian record for a three-Test series. By the end of 2001 he had broken Bob Simpson's Australian mark for most Test runs in a calendar year - Ricky Ponting first topped Hayden's 1391 in 2003 - and formed a prodigiously prolific opening partnership with Justin Langer. Belatedly he came good in the one-day arena too, and by the time the 2003 World Cup rolled around he was ranked among the top three batsmen in both forms of the game. Later that year he hammered 380 against Zimbabwe at Perth, briefly borrowing the Test record from Brian Lara, and in mid-2004 he was at it again, battering Sri Lanka for twin centuries that took his tally to 20 in only 55 Tests.
Weary through years of plunder and a difficult India tour, Hayden experienced an extended slump during 2004-05 and was initially replaced as one-day opener by Michael Clarke. His lack of form and footwork continued against England and his disastrous series only improved at The Oval with 138. It was the awkward beginning of a resurgence that extended his career and thrust him towards more middle-aged domination. Usually playing more patiently, he followed his south London renaissance with three hundreds in successive matches, becoming the third player next to Bradman and Barrington to score four in a row twice, and passed 1000 runs in a calendar year for the fifth time. After reaching three figures on five occasions during 2005-06 and adding 153 at the MCG a year later, he stood behind only Bradman, Ponting and Waugh on Australia's list of century-makers. With three hundreds in consecutive games against India in 2007-08, he quickly leapfrogged Bradman's 29, and had 30 when he waved goodbye. Regaining the Ashes in 2006-07 brought tears to Hayden's eyes and he was also saddened when Langer retired at the end of the series, although his mood lifted when he won back his one-day place. In the final match of the 2006-07 Chappell-Hadlee series he thumped an Australian-record 181 off 166 balls, which included ten sixes, and showed his impressive power. More muscle was on display at the World Cup as he averaged 73.22 in scoring 659 runs, the most at the tournament, and he later revealed he was carrying a fractured toe and a broken bone in his other foot. A frightening 66-ball century against South Africa earned him honorary St Kitts citizenship and the outdoors man completed a dream trip by scoring another two hundreds, hooking a 136kg marlin and winning the World Cup for a second time.
A year later he was back in the Caribbean only briefly, returning home without playing a Test due to an Achilles injury suffered during training while on Indian Premier League duty. Australia's top order lost strength without him, just as it had when India ended the 16-match winning streak at the WACA. He had been keen to push on until the 2009 Ashes, but disappointing displays in the lost series against India and South Africa in 2008-09 prompted him to announce his retirement after the Sydney Test. And with that, he was gone.