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April 13, 2004
After the amazing scenes yesterday - Brian Lara reclaiming the world record, and the first prime minister on the field of play since, well, the last time Lara did it - today it was back to a more recognisable form of Test cricket.
England ground their way to 285, avoiding the embarrassment of their largest-ever first-innings deficit (509 against South Africa at Lord's last August, since you ask). But although Andrew Flintoff's responsible century was good to watch, the lead was still a giddy 466, meaning a lot more toil yet for England, despite their safe, sedate progress in the second innings so far.
The damage was done yesterday, when England's top order buckled under the pressure of needing 552 just to save the follow-on. There was never going to be a comeback from 98 for 5.
And there was more pressure for England's openers when they came out for the follow-on. Marcus Trescothick has hardly timed a thing all tour - all winter, some might say - and while Michael Vaughan has generally been in much better nick, he's been finding all sorts of interesting ways to get out. At least he must have been pleased that Aleem Dar put the right glasses on today.
Vaughan was solid this afternoon, and eventually his confidence rubbed off on Trescothick: at long last those pigeon-toed feet started moving properly, and his clotted-creamy drives started flowing through the covers and back past the bowler again. They moved run-for-run to 50, and then Trescothick spurted in front. There's still a lot to do, but England's hopes of saving the game rocketed during the final session.
It has been England's stated aim for some time to be more like Australia. And in this series, they have done it to a T: stunning victories in the Tests that counted, but foot off the pedal in the dead rubber, that malaise that Steve Waugh never could quite do anything about, even with his all-conquering side.
But now Vaughan's men have a chance to out-Aussie the Aussies. Last year Australia were 3-0 up in the West Indies - and lost in Antigua. And at Sydney in January 2003, they were 4-0 up on England but never looked remotely like batting out the final day of a high-scoring match for a draw, in the face of some probing bowling from Andy Caddick (remember him?). If England can go one better than that and bat through tomorrow, they really will have gone up in the world.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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