The last time Shane Warne played against England at Old Trafford, he took a wicket with his very first ball in Ashes cricket. Yesterday he had to wait until his 43rd. But if the disparity says much about the wear and tear suffered by Warne's shoulder in the interim, the wreckage caused to the England innings was strangely familiar as Warne ended the day with 5 for 38 and England finished on 161 for 8, a deficit of 74.
Warne, a strangely subdued figure for the early part of this series, has clearly been a man waiting for the right pitch. Talk of sore finger joints - after surgery was performed 13 months ago - as well as a tired shoulder are all undoubtedly true and have taken their toll.
Yet given a surface that grips, as Old Trafford has here, and there are few better at demolishing an opponent and England will not be relishing the prospect of batting last against him on a pitch likely to offer him an increasing amount of turn.
He might not be able to make the ball rip and snarl as he did in the past but, when it did turn yesterday, it did so just enough to find the edge, a far more profitable habit than beating it, which is what often happened in the past.
Bowling from the Warwick Road End - the same end from which he delivered that era-defining meteor to Mike Gatting in 1993 - Warne began with a ball that turned almost as alarmingly out of the rough, and barely bounced shin high as Mark Butcher squirted it out to square leg.
If it was a harbinger of things to come, it took its time and it was not until Alec Stewart edged to slip trying to turn a leg-break pitching in the rough to leg that the floodgates began to open, as England helped squander the hard-fought opening to their innings.
Until that moment Stewart and his brother-in-law, Butcher, had added 66 runs following Mike Atherton's dismissal, caught behind off his gloves hooking at Glenn McGrath. Together the Surrey pair had batted soundly if a little slowly, having been troubled by little save a startling hesistancy in their running between the wickets.
Under some long overdue sun, the pitch had lost most of its early capriciousness, and England looked set to take a precious first-innings advantage, until Stewart, forced into error by the the constant nagging drip of Warne's accuracy, allowed the Aussies in.
In some ways, Butcher's dismissal to Michael Bevan five overs later was even more careless than Stewart's. Having just reached his second half- century in successive Test innings, he walked past a leg-side full toss and was brilliantly stumped by Ian Healy. It was Healy's 100th victim in Ashes Tests, a milestone reached only by Rod Marsh and Alan Knott, whose elite company the deserving Healy now keeps.
With Warne tightening the noose, it was a tally that did not stay static for long and both Nasser Hussain and John Crawley, fencing at balls that turned sharply, further added to the wicketkeeper's tally.
Robert Croft then completed a day for soft dismissals when he chipped McGrath to mid-off, where Steve Waugh made light of a difficult catch.
With Darren Gough's dismissal, lbw to Warne, England were left contemplating ruin until Mark Ealham, gaining confidence at every outing, combined sensibly with Andy Caddick. With Warne visibly tiring, the pair added an unbeaten 38 for the ninth wicket. With every run vital, it is a partnership that Australia will put every effort into stemming today.
Before they batted, England had every reason to be pleased with the way their day had started after promptly wrapping up the Australian innings. Having conceded valuable ground on the first evening, when Steve Waugh and Paul Reiffel took advantage of some wayward bowling, the removal of Australia's three remaining wickets for just 11 runs should have proved a huge fillip for Atherton's men.
The buoyant early mood was epitomised by Gough who, charging in from the Stretford End, finished the innings with three wickets, including that of Reiffel, whose 103-minute stay proved crucial for his team as he and Waugh put on 70 for the eighth wicket, a stand that will possibly be seen as the turning point should Australia win here and then go on to retain the Ashes.
Considering the dire situation of his side and the sporty nature of the pitch, no praise is too high for Waugh's innings. Apparently he rates his century here as his finest ever. If so, he was strangely subdued yesterday, adding just five runs to his overnight score before inside-edging a Gough inswinger on to his stumps.
Three balls later, Jason Gillespie followed after slashing at Dean Headley. The edge, safely pouched by Stewart, was the Surrey man's sixth catch of the innings. It was a feat that equalled the Ashes record set by Jack Russell in Melbourne just over six years ago. Unfortunately for England, it was the only high point in an otherwise depressing day.
Jon Culley, Henry Blofeld, county cricket, page 28
Old Trafford scoreboard
Australia won toss
AUSTRALIA - First innings
S R Waugh b Gough 108
(243 min, 175 balls, 13 fours)
P R Reiffel b Gough 31
(103 min, 84 balls, 1 four)
J N Gillespie c Stewart b Headley 0
(13 min, 8 balls)
G D McGrath not out 0
(4 min, 2 balls)
Extras (b8, lb4, nb3) 15
Total (327 min, 77.3 overs) 235
Fall (cont): 8-230 (Reiffel), 9-235 (S Waugh).
Bowling: Gough 21-7-52-3 (nb2) (8-5-10-1, 6-0-27-0, 3-1-9-0, 4-1-6-2); Headley 27.3-4-72-4 (nb1) (8-1-18-1, 10-1-30-2, 5-2-19-0, 4.3-0-5-1); Caddick 14-2-52-1 (5-1-13-0, 9-1-39-1); Ealham 11-2-34-2 (nb1) (4-0-22- 1, 5-1-11-1, 2-1-1-0); Croft 4-0-13-0 (2-0-6-0, 2-0- 7-0).
Progress: Second day: Innings closed: 11.37.
ENGLAND - First innings
M A Butcher st Healy b Bevan 51
(178 min, 140 balls, 5 fours)
*M A Atherton c Healy b McGrath 5
(36 min, 29 balls)
A J Stewart c Taylor b Warne 30
(117 min, 79 balls, 2 fours)
N Hussain c Healy b Warne 13
(46 min, 29 balls, 2 fours)
G P Thorpe c Taylor b Warne 3
(8 min, 7 balls)
J P Crawley c Healy b Warne 4
(29 min, 26 balls, 1 four)
M A Ealham not out 23
(120 min, 89 balls, 3 fours)
R D B Croft c S Waugh b McGrath 7
(19 min, 23 balls, 1 four)
D Gough lbw b Warne 1
(11 min, 13 balls)
A R Caddick not out 15
(72 min, 53 balls)
Extras (b4, lb3, nb2) 9
Total (for 8, 322 min, 81 overs) 161
Fall: 1-8 (Atherton), 2-74 (Stewart), 3-94 (Butcher), 4-101 (Thorpe), 5-110 (Hussain), 6-111 (Crawley), 7-122 (Croft), 8-123 (Gough).
To bat: D W Headley.
Bowling: McGrath 22-8-39-2 (8-3-15-1, 3-1-6-0, 3-0-7-0, 8-4-11-1); Reiffel 9-3-14-0 (nb2) (6-2-10-0, 3-1-4-0); Warne 28-12-48-5 (3-1-10-0, 25-11- 38-5); Gillespie 14-3-39-0 (10-1-27-0, 4-2-12-0); Bevan 8-3-14-1 (3- 0-12-1, 5-3-2-0).
Progress: Lunch: 37 for 1 (Butcher 17, Stewart 13) 18 overs. 50: 108 min, 25.4 overs. 100: 185 min, 45.4 overs. Tea: 110 for 4 (Hussain 13, Crawley 4) 48 overs. 150: 288 min, 70.4 overs.
Butcher's 50: 177 min, 137 balls, 5 fours.
Umpires: G Sharp (Eng) and S Venkataraghavan (India).
TV replay umpire: J H Hampshire.
Match referee: R S Madugalle.Reuse content