Pietersen's promise becomes false dawn

Much earlier on, in what are frequently termed the darkest hours, cleaners entering the recently refurbished Pavilion found the Old Library awash with water. Apparently a pipe in the kitchens which serve the committee and players' dining rooms two floors above, had burst shortly before the cleaners arrived, at around 3.30am, and hundreds of gallons cascaded through the floors bringing two new chandeliers crashing down on to an equally new table in the Old Library.

The cost of the damage has yet to be worked out, but early estimates put it well into four figures. Miraculously the cleaners were able to complete the mopping-up operation by 8.30am when the members were let into the ground.

Would that miracles had been on tap for England. At least their tail managed to wag a little and rattle the Aussie chains in the process. Kevin Pietersen, naturally, led the way with a maiden test fifty that was studded with brilliance.

Some of Pietersen's shots were exquisite. The maltreatment of Australia's first day hero Glenn McGrath, was particularly gratifying for England supporters.

Pietersen smote him for six, four, six and a single as he raced from 36 to 51. A further six off the leg spinner Shane Warne had the packed ground dreaming of a debut century.

All they got was a miraculous catch by Damien Martyn fielding on the deep mid-wicket boundary, who ran round some 20 yards before pulling off a staggering catch to dismiss Pietersen after almost two and a half hours of dogged resistance.

The disappointment around the ground was palpable. The Hampshire batsman had caught the public imagination as he adopted an aggressive attitude and went after the Australian bowlers.

It was not unrealistic to expect the South Africa-born Pietersen to turn that fifty into a maiden hundred. His departure was keenly felt and none but the most optimistic could be forgiven for expecting a rapid end to the England cause as last man Simon Jones trudged to the wicket.

But if they thought it was all over as the Glamorgan man took guard, they were soon made to think again. Jones and Steve Harmison contrived to frustrate Ricky Ponting and his men as they edged, nudged and fudged a total of 33 runs for the last wicket, thereby cutting the Australians' first-innings lead to a more respectable 35.