England on top after Vaughan's 166
England seized on the advantage gained at Edgbaston as Michael Vaughan returned to form in style, striking a magnificent 166 to lead England's charge on the first day. By the close they were 341 for 5 with Ian Bell, another who has been struggling with the bat, finding form to finish unbeaten on 59. It was an important toss for Vaughan to win on a solid Old Trafford track.
Australia were boosted by the inclusion of both Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, but their team's fielding let them down, spilling a host of catches. Among other misses, Marcus Trescothick had a let-off on 13, and Vaughan was put down on 41: costly blunders by Adam Gilchrist which helped England shade the day.
Trescothick went on to make 63 and he shared a second-wicket stand of 137 with Vaughan, before he became Shane Warne's 600th Test victim. Australia took some consolation late on when Lee took two quick wickets: he dismissed Kevin Pietersen for 21 and then Matthew Hoggard with the last scheduled ball of the day. But the day belonged to Vaughan.
The England captain dominated throughout, his classy innings eventually ending when he fell to the part-time bowling of the slow left-armer Simon Katich. He was well set when he dragged the ball to long-on, straight down McGrath's throat.
It was a timely return to form for Vaughan - whose fluent strokeplay and mental strength came to the fore as he played patiently at first, before flooring the accelerator - but he gave his wicket away needlessly. Nevertheless, after coming into the innings under something of a cloud, he and England were boosted by his efforts.
After the early loss of Andrew Strauss for 6, Vaughan had unfurled some of his more flourishing strokes, including that long-forgotten back-foot drive, as Jason Gillespie was milked for 33 runs in his first six overs. At the other end, Trescothick settled in nicely, after some early wobbles, which also included nearly chopping on off the indifferent Gillespie.
He nearly perished twice on 41, edging McGrath then being bowled next delivery off a no-ball. But from then on he batted sensibly, proving a shrewd judge of length. He kept his hooks and his pulls - which have been his downfall so often - in his locker until he was way past his century (the first by any batsman this series), before unleashing them with abandon, Gillespie his main target.
In all, Vaughan took ten of his twenty fours off Gillespie, and even added a six for good measure over midwicket. But the pull shot was to prove his undoing once more as he gave his wicket away with England on 290 for 3.
Ian Bell took over from there. He had some nervy times early on, as he struggled to pick two of the world's best bowlers, McGrath and Warne. But he came into his own in the final session and, with his gritty temperament, he could prove a vital foil to the lusty Andrew Flintoff tomorrow.
Another gripping day had got off to another gripping start, with Strauss falling early after some clever bowling from Lee, who had been softening Strauss up with a barrage of bouncers, one of which had rapped him a painful blow on his neck as he went to hook. The bowler immediately offered a friendly hand, but wasn't so kind the next over when he speared in a slow yorker, which Strauss tried to play far too early. It was just reward for a fiery opening burst.
McGrath was on the money from the off, too: with just his second ball he struck Trescothick on the glove with a lifter which sailed over the slips for a one-bounce four. He should have had him in the fifth over, but Gilchrist snatched one-handed at the expansive drive . McGrath wasn't bowling at full tilt, but his radar was at full beam and trained on the corridor outside off-stump.
He was to go wicketless on the day, though, as catch after catch went down off his bowling. Yet he was responsible for one himself, putting down an easy return off the fresh-faced Bell, who had failed to pick his spot when he was in the teens. England certainly profited from the drops.
There was delight all round, though, for one particular catch. Gilchrist finally clung on to one to bring up Warne's 600th Test wicket and Old Trafford stood to applaud a magnificent effort. Ricky Ponting had left it until the 34th over to bring Warne on, but the world's leading wicket-taker struck in just his fifth over. Even this wasn't cleanly taken by Gilchrist, who held on at the second time of asking as the ball bobbled up off his knees.
England took control from there, through Vaughan and Bell, but they will be kicking themselves for losing two wickets just before the close after Vaughan had fallen. Pietersen, as usual, didn't hang around in bashing his 21 but he failed to get hold of one which the substitute, Brad Hodge, held on the boundary. Matthew Hoggard then seemed on course to survive the day, digging out a quality Lee yorker from the penultimate ball. But his heroics couldn't last, and Lee pulled out one final stop to pluck out his off stump at the last.
Andrew Strauss b Lee 6 (26 for 1)
Deceived by slower ball, a yorker
Marcus Trescothick c Gilchrist b Warne 63 (166 for 2)
Ball cannoned off back of bat, on to keeper's knees into hands
Michael Vaughan c McGrath b Katich 166 (290 for 3)
Looped up easy catch to long-on
Kevin Pietersen c sub (Hodge) b Lee 21 (333 for 4)
Holed out on midwicket boundary
Matthew Hoggard b Lee 4 (341 for 5)
Well-pitched ball knocked back off stump
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo