Taylor's team turn the corner in style

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Try as England will to maintain that the Ashes series is precisely balanced at the half-way stage, there is no denying that the Australians will head for Headingley on 24 July with a bouncier stride than their opponents.

Undercooked, in their favoured expression, when England won with such verve at Edgbaston, in this Test they appeared done to a turn, a description that also fitted their captain's view of an Old Trafford pitch on which Shane Warne returned to form with devastating effect.

A buoyant Mark Taylor celebrating his 16th victory in 30 Tests as skipper, revealed that his decision to bat first last Thursday in conditions that strongly favoured England's bowlers had been taken as late as 40 minutes before the start.

"I thought about bowling, for sure. It was 50-50 the night before and still 50-50 when I arrived at the ground on Thursday morning. But I looked at the pitch after the last rolling at 10.20 and thought it had the look of the one here four years ago.

"People talk about it having been a big gamble but when you have a quality leg spinner like Shane Warne in your side I don't look at it that way. I told the guys it was going to be tough but that I fancied our chances if we bowled last.

"Shane had been below his best for the last two Tests but no one takes six or seven wickets in every game. Bowling, like batting, is a matter of confidence.''

Asked whether he had been unduly conservative in batting on past lunch on the fourth day, Taylor said the move had been simply to tighten the psychological screw. "Everyone knew that 400 was enough but as a batsman I know that it is nice to have a long break to prepare for an innings and I just thought I would give their guys a little longer in the field. It still left 141 overs and if you can't bowl a side out in that time then you are not going to.''

As is his habit, Taylor declined to express anxiety about his own form, even though he was out in low single figures in both innings.

"I'm not in the best form of my career but I came into this match with a hundred against Hampshire. I got a couple of good balls in this game but, in any case, I'd much rather make two and one and win the match than 129 and lose.

"Now we have the momentum going our way and as holders of the Ashes we are in front at 1-1," Taylor said.

"We are mindful that the momentum can change, as it did after Edgbaston, but we played very well here. We batted positively under tough conditions, especially Steve Waugh, whose century in the first innings was probably the best I've seen him play in Test cricket.''

Waugh, the first to make two separate hundreds in an Ashes Test for half a century, won the man of the match award.