England have scored 229 for four in their first innings against Australia
England failed to take full advantage of two things at Trent Bridge yesterday - the winning of an important toss and some awful Australian out cricket which included two dropped catches (and a possible third to which Adam Gilchrist did not get a glove) - plus a near unbelievable 21 no-balls.
Having raced to 105 without loss in the 22nd over, the home team somehow contrived to lose four wickets in the remaining 38 overs against an attack short of Glenn McGrath, with Ricky Ponting managing to take his fifth wicket in 92 Tests. The one bright spot of the day was the debut performance of Shaun Tait.
Understandably nervous in his first five-over spell, he still reached the other end at an average speed of more than 90 mph, and rattled out Marcus Trescothick and Ian Bell in successive overs later in the day.
He looks a natural wicket taker and the Australian management deserve all they get in this series for not playing him earlier.
As for the dropped catches, Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen were put down in successive overs off Mike Kasprowicz - the biggest culprit in overstepping - and batting usually becomes an easier exercise when you get two innings.
This Australian side is but a shadow of the razor-sharp outfit which has dominated world cricket for the last 12 years.
Ponting was finally forced to bring himself on as a fill-in seamer with a record of four wickets in 80 overs in 91 Tests. He bowled a defensive line outside off stump as though saying to his bowlers: "This is what I want" and proved his point when he had Vaughan caught behind for 58, although the England captain's body language suggested he and umpire Steve Bucknor held opposite views.
Shane Warne bowled five overs in the first 26 of the day, but then only bowled one more over just before the third interruption for rain brought an early closure.
Play was stopped at 6.15pm, but a decent forecast for the rest of the match means that most of the 30 overs not bowled yesterday will be made up.
England need to post a 450 total to win the game, but anything less will offer Australia an escape hatch.
The morning session was so one-sided that the run-rate was always well over four, with Trescothick and Andrew Strauss being ushered to an opening partnership of 105 in 22 overs, helped by 18 of those no-balls, with Kasprowicz unaccountably infringing eight times in as many overs.
He has erred all summer and, as with Jason Gillespie, looks a spent force.
Brett Lee "bowled" Trescothick with a no-ball and looked as though the Gods were against him. Coach John Buchanan has been asked about the unacceptable rash of illegal balls and keeps saying: "It isn't a problem".
Really? Apart from the mathematical certainty that a wicket will fall to one - three have already in this series, Trescothick twice and Vaughan once - it makes the bowler fret about where his feet are in his run-up. It is shoddy cricket and reflects badly on all concerned, including the management.
Strauss was out in a freakish manner. He tried to sweep one from Warne, but the ball rebounded downwards off the bat on to his boot and thence to Matthew Hayden at slip. Bucknor rightly referred to third umpire Mark Benson who made the right decision.
Then came Tait, straight after a break for rain. He swung a beauty back to Trescothick who was bowled off his pad, and Bell was done for pace as much as movement the following over. A tentative push forward - not quite with the full face of the bat - and Gilchrist did the rest.
A score of 146 for three could easily have been worse when Kasprowicz failed to cling on to hard return catch off Pietersen, and a much easier catch went begging in the same bowler's next over.
Vaughan, then 30, square cut uppishly to the left of Hayden 20 yards from the bat, but down it went. The Australians have no specialist bowling or fielding coach on this tour, and it shows. The fourth-wicket partnership added 77 runs in 21 overs in a period when surely Warne should have bowled.
Vaughan's dismissal came four overs before the premature close of play, with Australia undeservedly sharing the day. The rain interruptions disturbed the rhythm of the day, and might have made the breaks more difficult for batsmen than bowlers.
Even so, Australia would be pleased they halted the pre-lunch stampede, and a couple of early wickets this morning will tilt the game towards them.
It is a good batting pitch, although Kasprowicz bowled a few which moved enough to keep the England pace attack interested.
Pietersen received a mixed reception when he came out to bat, but his positive approach won most people over. He and Flintoff need to do something special this morning, especially against the impressive Tait and Lee.