England in control after Anderson's six
England 133 for 3 (Bell 53, Lyon 2-3) trail Australia 136 (Rogers 52, Anderson 6-47) by 3 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Hackneyed though the phrase is, this truly was a good toss to lose for Alastair Cook. There was grass on the pitch and cloud overhead when the coin was flipped, but neither captain was prepared to send the other in to bat. However, Michael Clarke's desire to play from the front led to Australia being skittled for 136 on the first day at Edgbaston, where James Anderson led a magnificent display of swing and seam bowling.
Anderson claimed 6 for 47, the fourth-best figures of his Test career, as England ran through Australia using only three bowlers. In his first Test for more than two years, Steven Finn collected two important wickets in the opening session, and Stuart Broad chipped in with two later in the innings. By stumps on a rain-affected day, England were three runs from overhauling Australia's total.
There were shades of Boxing Day 2010 about proceedings. On that occasion, Anderson picked up four wickets as Australia were rolled for 98. But there they had been sent in. In Birmingham, Clarke backed his batsmen, and the move backfired. Chris Rogers was the only man who seemed capable of handling the conditions. He played the ball late and punched it along the ground to score 52, but had no support of note.
On Boxing Day, though, England closed at a crushing 157 for 0, not only well ahead but with 10 wickets in hand. At Edgbaston, they went to stumps on 133 for 3, with Joe Root on 30 and Jonny Bairstow on 1. When rain arrived to end the day after only 65.4 overs, Ian Bell must have been kicking himself. Just one over prior he had thrown his wicket away for 53.
Bell had advanced to Nathan Lyon and tried to thump him down the ground, but succeeded only in skying a catch to David Warner at midwicket. It had been an encouraging innings for Bell in his move back up to No.3, full of crisp drives and confident strokeplay. On two separate occasions he struck three fours in an over, once off Josh Hazlewood and once off Mitchell Starc, and his innings could have been so much more.
In the end, it wasn't even clear if Ian was "Belly of the Day". He had strong competition from Adam Voges' stomach, which took two catches. The first came when Adam Lyth drove at a wide one from Hazlewood and at slip, Voges fumbled the ball out of his hands and into his tummy, where he managed somehow to cling on. But an even more remarkable take was still to come.
Cook was beginning to worry the Australians and had 34 when he pulled a short ball from Lyon off the meat of the bat only to see it rocket into the stomach of Voges at short leg. Such was the force of the shot that the TV cameras panned out to the midwicket boundary in expectation, but the ball had somehow stuck in Voges grasp, his hands completing the catch that his belly had really taken.
Australia needed some luck to help them back into the match after a difficult day with the bat. They posted 72 for 3 in a rain-affected first session and while England were clearly on top, it was nevertheless a platform from which Australia might have hoped to build a solid total. Instead, like an over-indulgent uncle on Christmas Day, they suffered a post-lunch slump from which they could not be roused.
Cannabis lamps had been used to prepare the pitch, which fittingly had plenty of grass and left the Australians in a haze. Their remaining seven wickets fell for 64 runs in the second session as Anderson ran through the middle order. England's bowling was masterful, the ball swinging and seaming just enough to flick edges and cause doubt in the minds of the batsmen.
They literally did not know how to leave well enough alone. Voges (16) and Starc (11) were both caught behind toe-edging when they decided too late to leave a swinging delivery. Clarke had been lucky to survive a similar shot that ran away for four. Peter Nevill shouldered arms to an Anderson pearler that moved in instead of out, and clattered the top of off stump.
Anderson started the procession when he straightened one just enough to have Warner lbw for 2 in the third over, a futile review from Warner notwithstanding. Finn then showed why he earned a recall when he had the in-form Steven Smith caught at slip for 7 and Clarke bowled by a fullish ball for 10, both to deliveries that moved away slightly.
Rogers shuffled around and bunted runs here and there, a few classy drives through the off side among his highlights. But once Voges fell shortly after the lunch break, nobody threatened to stick with Rogers for any length of time. Anderson enticed Mitchell Marsh into an expansive drive wide of off, which led to an edge behind for a duck, and Mitchell Johnson gave Anderson his fifth when he edged to fourth slip.
A second rain delay interrupted shortly after Rogers posted his half-century, and it did him no favours. On 52 he was trapped lbw by Broad coming around the wicket, and another review achieved nothing but confirming that the umpires were in form as fine as the England bowlers. A few tail-end boundaries helped the total along but Anderson completed his six-for when he had Lyon chopping on for 11.
Australia had lasted 36.4 overs, and Clarke might have been left wishing he had called heads instead of tails, for it was not especially a good toss to win.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale