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July 23, 2005
England's fighting display on the first day of this Test had given way to a more familiar procession by the third, as Australia wrenched the game from their grasp, first with a battling tail-end performance in the morning session, and then with an inexorable bowling display in the afternoon. England closed on a ropey 156 for 5, and Marcus Trescothick accepted his team were facing up to failure.
"We're disappointed for sure," he admitted to reporters after the close of play. "We are going to be on the back foot for rest of this game, but we've worked hard for 18 months to get to this point and we're not going to give in when the going gets tough."
Kevin Pietersen's bullish 42 not out gave the crowds cause to cheer as the evening drew in, but Pietersen had been at the heart of the most dispiriting aspect of England's play - dropping three of their six catches in the match as Australia set a tough 420 for victory. But Trescothick refused to point the finger, or press the panic button.
"All we can do is keep practising hard," he said. "You need to relax in the field and enjoy your time while you're out there, but catches are an individual thing, to be honest. We've improved our catching so much over the past year, so let's just hope this has been a bad day or a bad game."
While the spectre of dropped catches is one that looms large in England's recent Ashes experience, there was another familiar sight this evening, as Shane Warne spun his way to three wickets in a mesmeric display. He should have nailed Trescothick lbw with the final ball of the second session, but instead had him caught at slip for 44 as England lost five wickets for 39 before the close.
"I didn't pick that lbw appeal," Trescothick admitted. "I thought I'd hit it, but then I saw on the replay it was close. In series I've played, he's always been a top challenge so it's hard to judge his performance on one day, but there was a bit of rough in the footholes so we knew his legspinner would turn. But he bowled well, no doubt."
One plus for England was that they saw off the new-ball challenge of Glenn McGrath, who grabbed five wickets in 31 balls in the first innings but went wicketless in 21 overs second time around. "The new ball is obviously a crucial period," said Trescothick. "The aim is to survive as long as you can, and wait for a moment you can score. But a class performer like him doesn't give you anything.
"I don't think we play the players anymore," insisted Trescothick, when asked whether England were still in awe of Warne and McGrath. "We play the situation, and play the ball as much as we can. They are two world-class performers, we know they are going to bowl well at us, but we also know we can score off them and have big partnerships against them."
Australia's other successful bowler was Brett Lee, who marked his first match for Australia since January 2004 with a fiery new-ball burst and two late wickets including the crucial one of Michael Vaughan, who was bowled for 4. "We are happy with the way the game has gone," Lee admitted, "But we can't just expect five wickets tomorrow. It's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, and bowling in partnerships."
"We said in advance we'd be looking to play hard cricket," said Lee. "We have come over here to win 5-0. There's no point aiming to win 3-2. But to do that, it's going to take a lot of hard competitive cricket. This first Test is the most important, because it sets up the summer."
For Australia, it was a far cry from the opening exchanges of the match, when they were caught cold by an inspired England bowling performance. "They bowled fantastically," Lee admitted, "but a Test is meant to last five days, and we knew we had a second chance today. I take my hat off to Simon Katich for the way he batted, especially with the tail, and for having confidence in Jason and Glenn."
Australia have not lost a game at Lord's since 1934, and Lee admitted he was grateful that the ECB had decided to hold the first game of the series at the ground. "Looking at what's happened in history, we have a very good record here," he said. "It has so much to offer as the home of cricket, and though we cop it on the boundary, it's a fantastic crowd and a great place to play cricket."
Especially, it would seem, when you're winning.