Giles operates to maximum effect to see off Australia's Zen masters

This may yet prove to be true, but there is still a formidable amount of battling to be done here over the next day or so and in the soft light of last evening there was only one certainty.

It was that Ashley Giles had found the best of himself at the end of a week in which, for one dubious reason or another, he had displayed quite the opposite of that.

If triumphalism should grip him at this precariously premature stage of the series that could bring the first Ashes triumph in 18 years - it has, after all been a monotonous tendency of the English game when enjoying success against some of the weaker nations - it would be a grave pity. What Giles has to celebrate before any anticipation of the eventual rewards his fine work yesterday may bring to himself and his team is a little sober reflection on what it really meant.

Under immense pressure largely created by himself, he produced all of his ability to an optimum level.

He ridiculed the claims of his heaviest critics that his performance in the first Test at Lord's meant that the selectors would be saddling his team-mates with a passenger if they kept faith in him for this match.

Here he did, quite exactly, what he failed to do at Lord's. He won the respect of the Australian batsmen, a ferocious bunch who started the day so driven by an apparent need to match England's first-day scoring rate of 5.13 an over that had they been fighting bulls rather than cricketers they would surely have smashed their way through the nearest sightscreen. Matthew Hayden did the next best thing when he charged the first delivery he received, from Matthew Hoggard, and drilled it perfectly into the hands of Andrew Strauss.

At that point, Giles' skills of containing and maybe winkling out Australia, wherever they rested between the doubts of some critics and his own belief, seemed as if they might well stay in the margins of this second day. Australia seemed gripped by some dark imperative to self-destroy. However, soon enough that optimistic supposition was in ruins.

First Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain who had been keen enough to exploit any psychological damage caused by Giles' earlier flouncing, and then his young compatriot Michael Clarke, began to show the authority of Zen masters.

When Ponting dispatched Simon Jones for three straight drives to the boundary in the same over he seemed to be suggesting that England's first-day rampage to 407 all out would shrivel quickly enough in the afternoon sunshine.

But Ponting went for a mere 61 after the England captain Michael Vaughan had cunningly placed himself at backward square leg to pounce on a strangely irresolute shot from his rival. The ball was delivered by Giles. With Ponting gone, much depended on the ravishing touch and élan of Clarke, who was such a heavy influence on his side's crushing victory in the first Test.

Clarke was again batting beautifully, but when on 40, and in fearful English eyes maybe in the foothills of another game-changing innings, he was ambushed by a slightly quicker ball and caught, with stunning technical precision, by the critically beleaguered wicketkeeper Geraint Jones. Again the vital ball was delivered by Giles.

From him there had come none of the pyrotechnics of Shane Warne, none of that charging of the blood which accompanies displays of sporting genius. But then we know, and we thought Giles knew we knew, that he is not a sporting genius. He is a man who has had to work for his success every day of his professional life, and here on his home ground of Edgbaston he had the satisfaction of working harder, more resolutely than at hardly any other time in his career.

Here, on the day which might just prove to be the one that finally turned the tide, were Giles' details: 26 overs, two maidens, 78 runs and three wickets. Quite perfectly, the third wicket was Shane Warne. The greatest spinner the world has ever known came to the wicket maddened by the same furies which had inhabited Hayden, and there was Giles sending him back with a delivery of fine measurement. It was an ending of supreme satisfaction for the man who had endured a week of torment, one which might just inform the rest of his cricketing life.

What it can say to him, surely, is that his great strength will always be in his ability to play his game on his own terms and to the limit of his talent. He is not a Warne, and nor he is too adept at the business of sporting controversy. This was one which plagued his approach to one of the most important games of his career - and one which some thought had raised serious questions about his suitability against opponents as ruthless as these.

Have Giles and his team-mates finally shaken off the Australian yoke? There is some compelling evidence. Andrew Flintoff played with the ball on the second day as he did with the bat on the first, which is to say with great panache and natural aggression. Vaughan, for all his troubles with the bat, led with vigour and a sharp eye for an edge, and his running out of Damien Martyn was a crushing stroke.

But there, right at the end, was the sight of Warne once again ransacking his memory and producing an astonishing delivery to bowl Strauss around his legs. The Australians are down, and quite possibly out. But even on the day Ashley Giles re-made his professional profile, he couldn't really take anything for granted. He had played like a good professional. But Warne was something else, something on ground England still must tread.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada