Final day: England drew with Australia
Nothing could top England's two-run win at Edgbaston but the final day at Old Trafford yesterday was at least its equal for pure drama in a day which started at 10.30 and finished at 6.45pm with honours even.
A crowd of 23,000 - most of whom had queued throughout the night - saw a day's play which had everything. Let nobody ever suggest that a drawn Test match cannot drain every emotion out of players, umpires and spectators alike.
Not often do numbers ten and 11 have to go through the wringer as did Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath who had to play out the last 24 balls against Michael Vaughan's two enforcers, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison.
The biggest Australian hero of the series so far, Ricky Ponting, had batted for 92 overs to score 156 - his 23rd Test century - but gloved one down the leg-side to Geraint Jones off the final ball of the 104th over.
Ninth out, he was distraught as he passed his No 11 McGrath, who took guard with 24 balls to survive in company with Lee.
The crowd, just as they did all day, roared on each bowler to deliver the ball which would give England a deserved 2-1 lead in the series. It was not to be as the two tall Australian tailenders somehow played and missed instead of edging, and squeezed out yorkers perilously close to the stumps.
As Lee in particular knows, what goes around comes around. Having got so close to the winning line in the second Test, this time Lady Luck smiled as he and McGrath embraced in midpitch before they were congratulated by all the England cricketers.
A word for umpires Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden. They made several mistakes in the match but they were rock solid in the last hour as the pressure on them bordered on the intolerable.
There were many moments in the match which contributed to the draw instead of the thumping victory they would otherwise have nailed down - such as the two howlers by Geraint Jones in the first innings which reduced a probable lead of over 200 to 142.
Then there was Warne's first-innings 90 and his terrific bowling on Sunday, without which England would have declared at least an hour earlier and left themselves-an extra dozen overs or so to winkle out ten wickets.
And they needed winkling out on a pitch which was a personal triumph for groundsman Peter Marron. Only the hard new ball posed a problem for the faster men, and Warne and Ashley Giles never got the sort of assistance they would expect on a normal fifth-day pitch.
Another defining moment was the fifth catch dropped by Kevin Pietersen in the series - this one allowed Warne a further seven overs at the crease and raises a serious question mark against his catching method within 20 yards of the stumps.
As with his batting, he has hard hands and goes at the ball, as he did when Warne clipped one from Simon Jones to him at mid-wicket, low and to his left. He did the hard part by diving and getting the ball in both hands only for it to spill out.
There were 17 overs to go but Warne hung around for another seven before he was out to a brilliant reflex catch by Geraint Jones.
Warne edged one from Flintoff to Andrew Strauss at third slip. It bounced off hands and thigh to his left and behind the wicketkeeper, who pirouetted around and scooped up a terrific catch.
Nine overs left but still there was Ponting to motherhen Lee through five of them, organising the strike and looking as safe as the Bank of England.
Match nearly over, except that can never be said in this marvellous series with the final twist coming when the captain was dragged from the wheel because of his first poor stroke of the day.
The excruciating drama of the subsequent 24 balls will live long in the memories of two sides who punched each other to a standstill. A good job the Trent Bridge Test is not a back-to-back contest with everyone absolutely mentally shot to pieces.
The day started amid crowd scenes never seen at Old Trafford in more than 100 years of Test cricket. Because tickets could only be bought at the gate, queues started not long after midnight on Sunday. It took me half an hour to traverse the last 400 yards to the ground by car. The gates were closed at 9.35, with at least 10,000 locked outside.
It was just like People's Day on the odd Sunday at Wimbledon, with a different sort of crowd that involved itself from the first ball to last.
We even had a longdistance bugle duel with the Aussie blower giving everyone Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda and Once a Jolly Swagman, and his British opponent at the other end of the ground responding with Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory. And all played tunefully.
England got a perfect start when Matthew Hoggard's first ball took the edge of Justin Langer's bat on its way to Geraint Jones. Before lunch Flintoff switched from around the wicket to over against Matthew Hayden and bowled him behind his legs.
Damien Martyn got a stinker from Bucknor. He was given lbw to Harmison despite knocking the cover off the ball. When Simon Katich played a wild slash to one from Flintoff, Giles took a high flyer to his right to bring in Gilchrist.
Flintoff has his number and, for the fifth time this summer - maybe more - the left-hander sliced a catch to Ian Bell in the gully from one bowled around the wicket. The tactic cramps him and makes him play where he least likes. At 182 for five in the 58th over and still 50 to go, the spectators were counting chickens, even if the home players knew there was still work to be done.
Michael Clarke was fit enough to bat without a runner and he scored an attractive 39 before Jones deceived him with a lovely reverse inswinger. No stroke was played as the off stump was taken out as it moved back at least a foot.
Jason Gillespie was promoted ahead of Warne because of his stay of two and a half hours in the first innings but soon went to a perfect Hoggard yorker to bring in Warne with the equation 31 overs to survive or England to take three wickets. For the fourth time in the match he was the pain up the English proverbial as he survived 22 overs before being dismissed by that Jones scoop.
Which left the final bit of theatre to be played out. Only? The shredding of nerves continued until that final embrace between McGrath and Lee.