Run with the coin repeated with bat

Jon Culley hears the sides agree about a day's play dominated by the tourists

Two months after the heady euphoria of their victory at Edgbaston, England were close to accepting the end of their Ashes dream at Trent Bridge last night after Australia established what looks to be an impregnable position on the opening day of the fifth Test.

The Australian captain, Mark Taylor, declared his team had "gone a long way" towards retaining the Ashes and even David Lloyd, England coach and supreme optimist, found it hard to mount a convincing argument against such an outcome.

"It's a five-day match and a lot can happen," Lloyd said, "But we've got a lot of hard work from now on."

He agreed with Taylor that the toss had been as crucial as any in the series. Taylor chose tails and guessed right for the fifth consecutive call, teasing Michael Atherton over the new Isle of Man coin the England captain had hoped would change his luck.

"It had a St George dragon on the back," Taylor said. "That's where he made his mistake. Someone should have told him that St George is my rugby league club back home."

Taylor, courteous and respectful as ever, applauded the England bowlers for their hard work on an unrewarding pitch, but Lloyd was less generous. "You cannot criticise them for their commitment and effort," he said. "But we did not put the ball in the right place often enough."

The pitch, held together by a good covering of grass, is likely to wear well, even with baking temperatures forecast into the weekend. A first Test wicket prepared by the Nottinghamshire groundsman, Steve Birks, it could not have been tailored better for Australia, who lead 2-1 and, as holders, need only to draw to retain the Ashes.

"It was a good toss to win, but we've batted well and put ourselves in a good position," he said. "To score 300 in the day is what we were aiming for and we'll be out to do the same on the second day, although I'm not thinking about a draw because that is not in our nature."

Taylor was disappointed not to score a century at the scene of his highest Test score. As he and Matthew Elliott took Australian to three figures without loss, there seemed a real possibility that the events of 1989, when Taylor went on to a career-best 219 after he and Geoff Marsh had shared 301 runs on the opening day, would be duplicated.

"I felt so good I had visions of matching that, so it was a disappointment to get out, although it was a good ball. Had I got through that spell, when Andy Caddick bowled very well, I felt I could have gone on to a hundred."

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