Under the thumb
Australia's valuable tail-end contributors irritated England into dreaming of a world record chase, but the distant hope was smashed by a brutal and beautiful partnership of legspin and extreme pace. Shane Warne and Brett Lee missed out while Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie piled on 95 with Simon Katich. When they joined forces with the ball they swiftly - almost mesmerically - initiated a traditional Old Enemy unravelling.
With hands still stinging from batting blows, Lee saved extra pace and a pocket full of short balls for his second spell as tea approached and he charged at Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss. Believing victory was a chance, Duncan Fletcher's New England were untouched by 50 before being ruffled and dramatically dumped by a spectacular combination. At stumps they were 156 for 5 with Warne and Lee the only bowlers on the scorecard.
Lee's steam was joined by Warne and in four overs before the break the batsman's discomfort level dipped from moderate to extreme. Trescothick survived two no-shot lbw shouts from Warne - the second closer than the first but Aleem Dar would prove hard to move - while Strauss avoided Lee's shoulder-height balls searing past at 146 and 149kph. Somehow the pair survived the pre-tea burst, although Trescothick received a boost from Dar when, playing well back to Warne, ball hit pad before bat.
After the cakes the damage came quickly. Confused and shot-shy, Strauss almost fell lbw twice to Warne, who begged and pleaded with intensity as strong as any shown during his time in England. Dar should have been persuaded by the second appeal but his reputation as a not-outer has been well earned.
While Warne grumbled, his tormenting of Strauss provided Lee with his first wicket and a superb diving catch. Strauss wanted to pull, yet for the second time in two overs changed his mind mid-stroke and bunted limply. Lee's seasons of running drinks are gone, but his reviled chainsaw celebration has returned.
Once Trescothick had edged and Ian Bell was trapped so adjacent that even Dar couldn't refuse Warne's advances, Lee cut down Michael Vaughan's off stump. England had also cart-wheeled for a second time, somersaulting from 80 for 1 to 112 for 4 in 59 balls, and Lee was so pumped he threatened to dint further the uneven pitch with his air-punches.
Playing his first Test since January 2004 he enjoyed the catharsis. Three lower-order wickets in the opening innings had complemented McGrath's perfection, but Lee was straining for a stand-alone pace performance. Through 15 overs he delivered it, although not everything turned as gold as his jangling bracelet.
Kevin Pietersen smacked Lee for huge six into the stands at midwicket and there will be debate over whether a thigh-high full toss was a beamer or a missed lbw dismissal. While Lee was strutting Warne made sure Andrew Flintoff's first Test was a double failure with the help of a smart catch from Adam Gilchrist
Australia have refused to let England maintain the ferocious intensity of the match's first two sessions and old, sloppy habits have returned in worn and new faces. The magic of Warne and McGrath spans generations and with Lee's thrust England are again under Australia's thumb.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo