As ironies go it could not have been more cruel, and England, whose timing for seizing the moment is about as faulty as a two-bob watch, were essentially a day late. Had they managed to produce bowling of that calibre 24 hours earlier, the destination of the Ashes might not have been so clear cut as it appeared last night.
However, on a ground where they have won just one of their last 10 Test matches, England's stock, briefly buoyed after their extraordinary morning with the ball, fell sharply once Shane Warne began to work the magic of old.
The portents, if never entirely propitious after Australia's first innings total of 427, took their biggest denting when Alec Stewart was dismissed for 87. Restored to his favoured opening position and batting like the sublime strokeplayer we saw last winter, Stewart provided the lion's share of the century opening partnership he shared with Mike Atherton, their fourth together in Test matches.
On course for his first hundred against Australia, Stewart was, in the end, a victim of his own excesses. Having scored at almost a run a ball, and driven the Australian bowlers to distraction with his glorious strokeplay, his slash at Warne was an inglorious end to a memorable innings.
It also brought a brilliant diving catch from wicketkeeper Ian Healy, who, recovering after the initial thick outside edge had proved too hot to handle, performed a neat twisting backwards dive to snare the rebound.
With Atherton already a victim of the same combination, Warne began to warm to his task. Except for the latter stages of the Old Trafford match, he has not really had a bone-dry surface like this one to work with, and he quickly settled into the role of tormentor.
Once Stewart had departed, his generous flight began to make the ball drift and grip dangerously. It is these two factors that makes him such a difficult prospect to play against, and the ball that removed Nasser Hussain was about as perfect as a leg-spinner's dismissal can get.
Hussain, who normally plays spin well, had no answer to a ball that pitched on middle and leg and turned sharply to hit off-stump. If it was not quite as cataclysmic as the one that Mike Gatting received at Old Trafford four years ago, its effect on the England dressing-room would have been no less demoralising.
When John Crawley followed soon after, caught by Healy down the leg-side when fending at a short ball from Glenn McGrath, England's early momentum had drawn to a standstill.
It could have been worse, and had Graham Thorpe not beaten Jason Gillespie's direct hit trying to scamper his first run, England could well have been following on, a prospect looking less likely since Adam Hollioake brought his steadying influence to bear over his occasionally hot-headed Surrey team-mate.
But if all prospects of victory had dwindled by the close, England's captain and bowlers must be given much credit for the way they raised their game. After a long hot Thursday, the England dressing-room would have been full of tired and dispirited players.
With morning haze perhaps helping the ball to swing, Australia simply had no answers to Dean Headley and Devon Malcolm, who took four and three wickets respectively, as they performed an about-turn on their first day's efforts, when Australia had scored more than 300 runs.
Only Steve Waugh managed any semblance of dominance as Australia's middle- order was suddenly made to look frail. With brother Mark falling lbw in the middle of an excellent opening spell from Andrew Caddick, and Ricky Ponting dragging one on to his stumps, Steve was once again left to work his miracles with the tail.
He nearly managed it as well, eventually falling for 75 to a beauty from Malcolm that squared him up before removing his off-stump.
As Waugh trudged off the ground, to the raucous delight of the capacity crowd, England once again began to taste those elusive sweet flavours of Edgbaston.
By the close though, and after Warne had played his part, a familiar bitter after-taste had returned.
Trent Bridge scoreboard
Australia won toss
AUSTRALIA - First innings
M E Waugh lbw b Caddick 68
(174 min, 124 balls, 8 fours)
S R Waugh b Malcolm 75
(169 min, 102 balls, 13 fours)
I A Healy c A Hollioake b Malcolm 16
(29 min, 18 balls, 3 fours)
S K Warne c Thorpe b Malcolm 0
(11 min, 5 balls)
P R Reiffel c Thorpe b Headley 26
(61 min, 45 balls, 4 fours)
J N Gillespie not out 18
(52 min, 34 balls, 2 fours)
G D McGrath b Headley 1
(10 min, 6 balls)
Extras (b4, lb10, w1, nb4) 19
Total (524 min, 121.5 overs) 427
Fall (cont): 4-311 (M Waugh), 5-325 (Ponting), 6-355 (Healy), 7-363 (Warne), 8-386 (S Waugh), 9-419 (Reiffel).
Bowling: Malcolm 25-4-100-3 (w1) (6-1-19-0, 2-0-9-0, 5-2-16-0, 2-0-11- 0, 3-0-15-0, 7-1-30-3); Headley 30.5-7-87-4 (nb3) (7-3-10-0, 7-0-28-1, 5-1-17-0, 3-0-17-0, 6-3-9-1, 2.5-0-6-2); Caddick 30-4-102-2 (nb1) (6-1- 17-0, 11-3-28-1, 2-0-9-0, 7-0-35-1, 4-0-13-0); B C Hollioake 10-1-57- 1 (nb1) (3-0-23-0, 5-1-17-1, 2-0-17-0); Croft 19-7-43-0 (5-4-1-0, 9-2- 31-0, 2-0-5-0, 3-1-6-0); A J Hollioake 7-0-24-0 (2-0-7-0, 5-0-17-0).
Progress: Second day: 350: 435 min, 103 overs. 400: 485 min, 112.3 overs. Lunch: 405-8 (Reiffel 19, Gillespie 9) 116 overs. Innings closed: 2.06 pm
S R Waugh 50: 125 min, 77 balls, 9 fours.
ENGLAND - First innings
*M A Atherton c Healy b Warne 27
A J Stewart c Healy b Warne 87
J P Crawley c Healy b McGrath 18
N Hussain b Warne 2
G P Thorpe not out 30
A J Hollioake not out 15
Extras (b2, lb3, nb4) 9
Total (for 4, 57 overs) 188
Fall: 1-106, 2-129, 3-135, 4-141.
To bat: B C Hollioake, R D B Croft, D W Headley, A R Caddick, D E Malcolm.
Bowling: McGrath 16-5-32-1; Reiffel 12-1-53-0; Gillespie 7-1-45-0; Warne 22-7-53-3.
Umpires: C J Mitchley and D R Shepherd.Reuse content