It looked liked the usual ritual slaughter until England, bowled out for 185, got the ball in their hands after tea in the third Test here yesterday. Then, in a session of seismic proportions, they wowed a capacity crowd by reducing Australia to 105 for 7 before bad light allowed them to head for the dressing-room, presumably to seek further solace in some ancient Chinese philosophy.
The turnaround, if remarkable, was the just the kind England have dealt in before when their backs are against the wall. But while Glenn McGrath, with 5 for 49, was once again uniformly excellent for Australia, all three of England main pace bowlers got in on the act with latest arrival, Alex Tudor, the undeniable catalyst that started the wickets clattering when he had Matthew Hayden lbw for 33.
In the space of 20 overs, 48 for 0 became 102 for 7 as England clawed their way back into the match. For once the chances created were all held, though the presence of the free-scoring Adam Gilchrist, unbeaten on four, will prevent any celebration from getting out of hand. While he remains, any big plans must be put on hold.
Tudor, in only the fourth Test of his three-year stop-start international career, proved a handful when he bowled downhill from the Radcliffe Road end. In overcoming the niggles, both muscular and mental that seem to blight him when big occasions loom, it must be hoped that Tudor has made a significant leap in the right direction.
If there were any lingering doubts yesterday, they quickly vanished as he found disconcerting bounce to go with the regular seam movement that, under a leaden sky, had kept batsmen honest for most of the day. Although Darren Gough took the next two wickets to fall, and Andy Caddick tightened the noose with 3 for 4 in 11 balls, it was Tudor, later adding Mark Waugh to his bag, who first brought doubt into the Australians' minds.
But, if Mark is a significant scalp, his brother, Steve, remains the man to get. After showing his mettle by tucking in behind the steep bounce, the Australian captain suddenly flashed at one from Caddick to give Michael Atherton a head- high catch at first slip.
It was the spur Caddick had needed, for neither he nor Gough had threatened with the new ball. Roaring in with renewed purpose he removed Damien Martyn, who edged a leg-cutter, and Shane Warne, lbw for a duck, in quick succession to leave Australia's innings in tatters.
England's riposte made for a hugely entertaining day in which 17 wickets fell. Trent Bridge has been no stranger to county pitch inspectors in the past, when points can be docked, but such a directive does not apply at Test level.
Apart from the grey cloud that stayed for most of the day, nothing looked untoward, otherwise Atherton would surely not have batted first after winning the toss. Indeed, apart from the odd ball from the other Australian pace bowlers, only McGrath found regular movement off the seam.
As if he needed to prove it again, McGrath, with the 20th five-wicket haul of his career, was the man who dealt the critical blows, as England subsided to 185 all out in 52.5 overs.
It would be unfair to cite every player as being culpable. Marcus Trescothick, who made a thrilling 69, and Alec Stewart with 46, both sparkled, but they were the exceptions as the danse macabre of England's batting returned for an encore.
Tall and seemingly only deadly with a ball in his hand, McGrath's pneumatic probing of the channel of uncertainty showed the majority of England's batting to be ill-equipped to deal with a bowler who keeps his errors to a minimum.
There has been an implied refrain from some quarters that England's dropped catches and lost tosses has been the difference between the sides. Although a low score from Australia may disprove the notion, you cannot contest Test matches when you consistently make the kind of low first-innings scores that England have done.
From the moment Atherton fell for a duck, trying to drop his hands as McGrath banged in short, there was a grim inevitability about the innings. Some television replays suggested that the ball brushed Atherton's right glove after striking his arm-guard, which itself would have sounded glove-like. But, even if it did, the fact that he had removed it from the bat handle meant it still should have been not out.
The early loss did not faze Marcus Trescothick, who, with a top score of 69, once more showed what an exciting talent he is. He still possesses a flaw or two, but these are only discernible when he tries to defend. When he is playing his shots, though, few batsmen are more punishing, as Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie found to their cost.
Furnished with the new ball, Lee was carted to the midwicket boundary every time he dropped short. Just before lunch, with both Mark Butcher and Mark Ramprakash back in the pavilion, Trescothick broadened his palette to take 14 off a Gillespie over, two of the boundaries coming from sumptuous drives.
Adding 54 for the fourth wicket with Alec Stewart, Trescothick looked set for a big score when Gillespie moved one across him to find the edge and exact some revenge.
After that, Stewart found reliable partners difficult to come by as McGrath exposed technical flaws with surgical precision. Sensing that he would soon run out of partners, Stewart, who played sensibly for his 46, became McGrath's fifth victim when he dabbed to second slip trying to pinch the strike.Reuse content