At 11.06am yesterday, England finally broke Australia.
Andrew Flintoff turned at the Pavilion End. He was propelled by a combination of the breeze at his back, the roar of the crowd, and adrenaline. It is a potent cocktail and he produced a lifting ball of 92mph, the sort designed to induce nightmares at that time of day for the man on the receiving end, and it duly took the edge of Brad Haddin's bat.
Standing at second slip was Paul Collingwood who stayed low and pouched the ball nervelessly in both hands inches from the ground. Flintoff stood in the middle, showing no emotion, chewing his gum like John Wayne and waited for his pals to engulf him. There was no coming back for Australia. England had plenty of work to do in the next couple of hours, before their 1-0 lead in the Ashes and victory against their oldest enemy at Lord's for the first time in 75 years was formalised, but that was the telling moment.
Above all, England craved an early wicket and they craved it because they needed it. Had Haddin and Michael Clarke, the heroes of the previous evening, extended their partnership much more, doubt would have crept in, and doubt is a cricketer's worst enemy. That ball banished apprehension, which you could almost see disappearing over the Lord's pavilion. Before lunch, despite some characteristically bravura flourishes by opponents who have not come to hand over the Ashes on a silver platter, England had won the second Test by 115 runs.
Flintoff was titanic on the fifth morning. His spell of 10 overs was fast and furious, a distillation of all his attributes as a cricketer. He added two more wickets to that of Haddin and finished with figures of 5 for 92. Thus, with his body aching and time running out, his name will go down on the dressing room honours board. Nobody could have deserved it more but this was not solely the first act of Freddie's Farewell, a delectable entertainment in four parts.
Before this series started and after the desperate draw in Cardiff, the England captain, Andrew Strauss, had invoked the importance of the team and each of its components playing a part. So they did at Lord's. The match was shaped on the first day by the glorious first-wicket partnership of 196 between Strauss, who scored 161, and Alastair Cook, who made 95 and deserved a hundred.
Along the way thereafter there were crucial cameo roles played by the seam bowling quartet as Australia were dismissed 210 runs adrift. From that point on it was England's match to lose and the dash with which the late middle order scored their runs on Saturday evening lengthened the gap.
By the time yesterday dawned, with Australia having at least made possible the impossible, it was made for Flintoff. But if he was the inspirational figure, he did not operate alone.
Clarke had not come so far to succumb easily, however, and in Mitchell Johnson he found another ally. Johnson's batting, by and large, was as audacious as his vaunted bowling has been diffident. Flintoff was still roaring in with the MCC members behind him but for all his unerring menace the storm was being weathered.
The seventh-wicket pair had put on 43 when with an hour having elapsed Strauss decided it was time for spin. Clarke, who looked as if he was going nowhere for the rest of the day, advanced to the first ball from Graeme Swann and hit it firmly to extra cover.
Swann had a poor match in Cardiff but had partially redeemed himself on the fourth day here with two key wickets. The second ball of his day brought complete atonement. To describe it as drifting, dipping and turning may be to invest it with powers it marginally lacked but that was the way it looked as Clarke, on 136, advanced, drove, missed on the inside and heard the death rattle of his off stump.
Clarke's endeavours had been exemplary. It was his best innings for Australia (though he would argue against because it was in a losing cause) and he had given them a sniff of improbable victory. He came in at 78 for 3, saw that become 128 for 5 and batted for nearly five and a half hours in facing 227 balls.
What remained was for Flintoff to obtain his first five-wicket haul at Lord's, his first for England for four years and only his third in 77 Tests. He achieved this with jaw-dropping élan. First, he bowled Nathan Hauritz with the batsman shouldering arms as the ball swung down the slope. And then, just as it seemed his spell must come to an end, he bowled a no ball, the last of his over, at Peter Siddle. Flintoff stopped short going back to his mark, turned and came in from about halfway. The ball was a delight, jagging in again and persuading Siddle to play all round it.
Johnson, who had been dropped by Swann off a fierce return drive, walloped a few more but the off-spinner cleverly bowled him with the last ball of the 107th over of the innings. Flintoff was elated. He shook hands with the team, the umpires and his opponents and grabbed Strauss in a bear hug which might have crushed his captain.
After what occurred in Wales eight days earlier this was extraordinary. To have beaten Australia at Lord's after so long and lead in the Ashes is the stuff of which dreams are made on.
Turning points: How the action unfolded at Lord's
*10.58am: Gasping for air The players take to the field. To say that Lord's has never been at such a pitch of excitement is a big call but the nervous expectation among fans is evident as soon as Anderson's first ball, a regulation leave outside off stump, incites more gasps for air than at a drowning men's convention.
*11.06am: Freddie fires Flintoff delivers what all England wants when his fourth ball lifts at Haddin, invites contact but is neither distant enough to leave nor close enough to play. Haddin edges, Collingwood catches, the ground erupts.
*11.14am: New bat please Clarke jabs belatedly down on a Flintoff yorker and splits his bat. Breaking his bat is a start, but it is not breaking his spirit.
*11.17am: Bounce 'em out Flintoff goes one further and hits Clarke's shoulder with a bouncer. The next ball passes perilously closed to the outside of Clarke's edge without touching it.
*12.00pm: Aussies in a spin Swann's slower second ball dips, drifts, and turns, defeating Clarke and knocking down his off stump. It is a smart delivery which the ebullient Swann can tell his grandchildren about and probably will at length.
*12.15pm: Hanging on The dangerous Johnson launches a withering drive at Swann. The bowler hurls himself to his right and almost clings on to a miraculous catch. When it spills out as his elbow hits the ground, it means at least that the Swann grandchildren are spared more tales of derring do.
*12.19pm: On the board Flintoff, needing one more wicket for his first five-wicket haul at Lord's, suddenly shortens his run after a no ball and beats Siddle all ends up with one slanting in.
*12.42pm: Swann's song The spinner bowls Johnson. Elation, jubilation, celebration. Seventy five years of history disappears before the eyes.
England won toss
England First Innings 425
Australia First Innings 215
England Second Innings 311-6 dec
Australia Second Innings
M J Clarke b Swann......... 136
227 balls 14 fours
†B J Haddin c Collingwood b Flintoff......... 80
130 balls 10 fours
M G Johnson b Swann......... 63
75 balls 9 fours
N M Hauritz b Flintoff......... 1
P M Siddle b Flintoff......... 7
13 balls 1 four
B W Hilfenhaus not out......... 4
Extras (b 5, lb 8, nb 8)......... 21
Total (107 overs)......... 406
Fall: 1-17 (Katich), 2-34 (Hughes), 3-78 (Ponting), 4-120 (Hussey), 5-128 (North), 6-313 (Haddin), 7-356 (Clarke), 8-363 (Hauritz), 9-388 (Siddle), 10-406 (Johnson).
Bowling: A Flintoff 27-4-92-5 (nb8) (7-2-9-2, 7-1-26-0, 13-1-57-3), G Swann 28-3-87-4 (8-1-23-2, 15-2-39-0, 5-0-25-2), S Broad 16-3-49-1 (9-2-22-1, 4-1-10-0, 3-0-17-0), P Collingwood 6-1-29-0 (one spell), G Onions 9-0-50-0 (5-0-25-0, 4-0-25-0), J Anderson 21-4-86-0 (6-0-30-0, 4-1-22-0, 2-1-5-0, 3-0-12-0, 6-2-17-0).
Progress: Final Day: 350 in 96.5 overs, 400 in 106.0 overs.
Umpires: B R Doctrove (WI) & R E Koertzen (SA)
TV replay umpire : N J Llong (Eng)
Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ)
Man of the match: AFlintoff (England)
England win by 115 runs
3rd Test: Thurs 30 July – Mon 3 August (Edgbaston)
4th Test: Fri 7 – Tues 11 August (Headingley)
5th Test: Thurs 20 – Mon 24 August (The Oval)