The late wickets of Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne, who was out to the final delivery of the day, gave England's players hope of producing a memorable victory. But, on a pitch which is sure to become harder and harder to bat on, Australia's overnight lead of 314 should be enough to see them move into a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series.
The dismissal of Warne reduced the tourists to 279 for 7 in their second innings, and Ricky Ponting will be hoping his tail-end batsmen can eke out another 40 or 50 runs this morning. England have successfully chased down targets of this size in the past 15 months but the teams they have beaten have not contained bowlers of the quality of Glenn McGrath and Warne.
After being dismissed for 155 in the morning session England battled hard to stay in the match. Michael Vaughan, the captain, chopped and changed his bowlers, and he occasionally set innovative fields, but it was the 155 run partnership between Clarke and Martyn which took the match Australia's way.
Clarke has plenty of admirers at home but before this innings his quality had been questioned in England. The 24-year-old scored a brilliant hundred on his Test debut in Bangalore in October 2004. It was an innings that would have surprised many Hampshire members - the dashing right hander averaged 35 for the county last summer.
The Australian academy has helped produce many Australian cricketers but Clarke is a product of grade - club - cricket. He learnt his trade playing for the Western Suburbs cricket club in Sydney, and the bouncy green pitches at Pratten Park in Ashfield should have prepared him for English conditions.
But this pitch at Lord's is now anything but English. It is dry and dusty, very similar to those Clarke played on in India. And, on 91, he looked set to post his third Test century. His innings contained several sumptuous clips through the leg side and a couple of dismissive cuts but his chance of adding his name to the long list of Australian batsmen on the visitors' dressing-room honours board ended when he dragged a wide ball from Matthew Hoggard on to his stumps.
Martyn is a class act. The right hander is a beautiful timer of the ball but he had to work hard for his runs against an aggressive England attack that bowled too short. Martyn was trapped in front by Stephen Harmison, the best of Vaughan's bowlers, the ball after Clarke was out but by then the pair had manoeuvred Australia in to a strong position.
The day may have taught Kevin Pietersen and Hoggard a couple of harsh lessons. Both players were outspoken and critical of Australia in the build-up to this Test, and both had days they would rather forget. Pietersen marked his debut with an impressive half century but it was the drop off Clarke that will be remembered.
The New South Welshman was on 21, and Australia's lead was 174, when he cut Jones to cover. Yet Pietersen, for the third time in the match, grassed the chance. Hoggard strangled Ricky Ponting, and eventually Clarke, with balls they could have easily left alone but for most of the day his bowling looked innocuous.
He also had a nightmare in the field, diving over the ball twice on the fine-leg boundary. Perhaps now the pair will concentrate on the part of the game which counts, that which takes place out in the middle.
Hoggard was also the first England player to lose his wicket and, following his comments that McGrath and Warne were past it, it is hard to believe the Aussies failed to remind him of England's plight.
The sledging did not last long. Hoggard looked clueless against Warne and it surprised nobody when he edged a weak cut to Matthew Hayden at slip. The loss of England's eighth wicket stung Pietersen into action and in three booming shots off McGrath he moved from 36 to 50.
The first, a straight drive, nearly cut the fast bowler down in his follow-through, but the next shot was even more bewildering.
On the first day England's batsmen could find no answer to McGrath's inspired bowling. No player was brave enough to try and hit him off his length. Pietersen, however, chose to step back from his stumps and smash the fast bowler straight back over his head, over the advertising boards and into the MCC members sat below the sightscreen.
McGrath went for the yorker with the third delivery of the over but Pietersen read his mind and drove the ball through extra cover for four to complete an excellent half century. Ironically, the announcement that Graham Thorpe had retired from international cricket soon followed, but this innings confirmed Pietersen's class.
The Hampshire star once again looked England's most accomplished batsman. The 24-year-old has passed every test that has been put in front of him and he now appears destined for a long and distinguished England career.
Pietersen even slogged Warne into the Grandstand for six. But his close friend and county team-mate had the last laugh when he had him brilliantly caught by Martyn on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
Simon Jones and Stephen Harmison added 33 entertaining runs before Harmison chipped Brett Lee to mid-off, and as the teams walked off the match was still there to be taken. But as has happened on so many occasions it was those wearing a "baggy green" cap who did the taking.
Australia won toss
Australia - First Innings 190 (Harmison 5-43)
England - First Innings
K P Pietersen c Martyn b Warne 57
149 min, 89 balls, 8 fours, 2 sixes
M J Hoggard c Hayden b Warne 0
19 min, 16 balls
S J Harmison c Martyn B Lee 11
35 min, 19 balls, 1 four
S P Jones not out 20
25 min, 14 balls, 3 fours
Extras (b1 lb5 nb5) 11
Total (229 min, 48.1 overs) ................155
Fall: 1-10 (Trescothick) 2-11 (Strauss) 3-18 (Vaughan) 4-19 (Bell) 5-21 (Flintoff) 6-79 (G Jones) 7-92 (Giles) 8-101 (Hoggard) 9-122 (Pietersen) 10-155 (Harmison).
Bowling: McGrath 18-5-53-5 (13-5-21-5 5-0-32-0); Lee 15.1-5-47-3 (nb4) (8-3-10-0 6-2-24-2 1-0-13-0 0.1-0-0-1); Gillespie 8-1-30-0 (nb1) (one spell); Warne 7-2-19-2 (6-2-12-2 1-0-7-0).
Progress: Second day: 100: 189 min, 40.3 overs. 150: 224 min, 47.1 overs. Innings closed: 11.25am.
Pietersen's 50: 144 min, 84 balls, 8 fours, 1 six.
AUSTRALIA - Second Innings
J L Langer run out (Pietersen) 6
25 min, 15 balls, 1 four
M L Hayden b Flintoff 34
65 min, 54 balls, 5 fours
*R T Ponting c sub b Hoggard 42
100 min, 65 balls, 3 fours
D R Martyn lbw b Harmison 65
215 min, 138 balls, 8 fours, 1 five
M J Clarke b Hoggard 91
150 min, 106 balls, 15 fours
S M Katich not out 10
44 min, 28 balls, 2 fours
ÝA C Gilchrist b Flintoff 10
26 min, 14 balls, 1 four
S K Warne c Giles b Harmison 2
13 min, 7 balls
Extras (b9 lb5 nb5) 19
Total (for 7, 322 min, 70.2 overs) 279
Fall: 1-18 (Langer) 2-54 (Hayden) 3-100 (Ponting) 4-255 (Clarke) 5-255 (Martyn) 6-274 (Gilchrist) 7-279 (Warne).
Bowling: Harmison 18.2-4-35-2 (6-2-10-0 6-2-10-0 6.2-0-15-2); Hoggard 12-0-46-2 (2-0-12-0 6-0-20-1 4-0-14-1); Flintoff 19-4-84-2 (nb4) (2-0-16-0 7-2-24-1 6-1-32-0 4-1-12-1); S Jones 11-1-46-0 (nb1) (7-0-29-0 4-1-17-0); Giles 9-1-46-0; Bell 1-0-8-0 (one spell).
Progress: Second day: Lunch: 47-1 (Hayden 32, Ponting 7) 12 overs. 50: 58 min, 13 overs. 100: 121 min, 26.3 overs. Tea: 140-3 (Martyn 24, Clarke 22) 39 overs. 150: 186 min, 42.2 overs. 200: 221 min, 50 overs. 250: 264 min, 59 overs.
Martyn's 50: 163 min, 108 balls, 5 fours, 1 five. Clarke's 50: 90 min, 64 balls, 8 fours.
Umpires: R E Koertzen (SA) and Aleem Dar (Pak)
TV replay umpire: M R Benson.
Match referee: R S Madugalle.Reuse content