England aim to regroup overnight
A day that began with the threat of a total washout finished with England wishing the rain had continued to fall. In the 30 overs that were possible at the end of an unexpectedly dramatic day, Australia had responded to their Lord's defeat with a bullish performance reminiscent of the resolve they showed in their vast first-innings performance in Cardiff three weeks ago. By the close they had batted with sufficient intent to make light of the loss of two sessions and ensure themselves enough momentum to have a proper go, in a fixture that many have already written off to the elements.
"It was a positive result," said Australia's coach Tim Nielsen. "Thirty overs is a hard time for anyone to have any impact in the big scheme of things. It can be one of those periods where you lose two or three wickets or struggle your way through. To be 1 for 126 at stumps is as good as you could have hoped for."
On a day when Brad Haddin's pre-match mishap drew uncanny parallels with Glenn McGrath's ankle- (and series-) turning moment four years ago, so too did the scoreline after the opening session of the contest. Back in 2005, England responded to their defeat at Lord's by racing to 132 for 1 at lunch on the first day, and today Australia's own batsmen performed almost the same trick. The only difference is that England have the opportunity to regroup overnight, a point that their wicket-taker, Graeme Swann, emphasised.
"At the start of any game, especially after a defeat, a team that is licking their wounds is going to come out fighting," he said. "You obviously hope they don't, but you have to expect that from Australia, and it's disappointing we didn't manage to match our performance at Lord's in this first innings. Any game of cricket where you leak runs at four an over, you're going to be at a disadvantage, but we're in a fortunate position that the ball is only 30 overs old, so we can go home tonight, take stock, look at where we're going to bowl tomorrow, to [Shane] Watson in particular, and I'm sure we'll come back 100% improved."
Andrew Flintoff forgot the mantra that made him so effective at Lord's, and pounded the ball in far too short and wide, while James Anderson's figures of 10-0-45-0 were frustratingly familiar - he came closer than any of England's seamers to forcing a breakthrough, but each of his seven four-balls were slashed away with alacrity as his radar failed to factor in a featherbed wicket that offered no margin for error.
"It was obviously a little disappointing," Swann said. "We didn't think it was a bad time to bowl for just a 30-over session, but we didn't put it in the right place consistently enough. It's certainly not an easy wicket to bowl on because it's a very good pitch but fair play to Australia and Watson in particular. I didn't realise he was an opening batsman, but he played like one today, so all credit to him. He was obviously under pressure coming in, because it's not easy opening the batting, but he played exceptionally well."
Watson's inclusion at the top of the order might have caught England even more on the hop had it not been for Phillip Hughes' untimely tweeting, but Swann claimed they had not had time to work out any plans for a player whom they had never before faced in Test cricket. "We had some good plans to Hughes that seemed to be working well, and coming into this game we were expecting that to continue and we were hoping he was still there," he said. "To have a new guy in, we have to go back to the drawing board, but having seen him play we have a much better idea of how he can bat. Hopefully we can come up with something more useful tomorrow."
Swann denied that England had found the conditions tricky to negotiate after days of unrelenting rain, and instead heaped praise on the ground staff who worked all through the night to get the pitch fit for a belated start. "Yesterday when we trained here the outfield was a quagmire, and then when we left, with the rain and the puddles on the field, it was touch-and-go if we'd get going at all. So all credit to the Edgbaston ground staff. I know if I was in charge we wouldn't have bowled a ball today."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo