The unforgettable Edgbaston Test match just got better than ever each day of what will go down as an epic.
The third consecutive capacity crowd of 20,000 must have doubted that Saturday's play could possibly provide even more drama, excitement and deeds of derring-do than the first two days in which 741 runs were scored and 21 wickets taken in 157 overs
And yet . . . the third day in a Test match played at the most furious pace of any of the previous 40 contests on the ground in 103 years, yielded 332 runs and 17 wickets in 89 overs. Not only that, but the near hysterical crowd watched magnificent individual performances from Andrew Flintoff with bat and ball, Shane Warne and Brett Lee with the ball.
There was punch and counter-punch as punters could have invested on both sides at odds against, but you had to be quick before the above three world-class cricketers tilted the balance first one way and then the other.
The Eric Hollies stand had never known such a day, with hymns and anthems ringing out all day. Edgbaston has always been known as the most patriotically vocal ground of all home venues, but the spectators cranked it up several notches.
We even had the first anti-clockwise Mexican wave your correspondent has ever seen, with cheering people on their feet at what they watching, rather than standing up in order as the tidal wave approached them.
The day could hardly have started worse for home players and their supporters. Hopes were high that an overnight lead of 122 with nine wickets in hand could be increased to a total which would be notional but virtually out of reach, even for the all-conquering Australian line-up.
Test cricket bears little resemblance to yesteryear, because of a run-rate which is rarely below four per over and sometimes approaches that of a one-day international. But the difference is that a captain can bowl who he likes, when he likes and can set any field he wants. That is why the crowd love it and why it has recaptured the public's attention.
Even the Barmy Army went quiet when play started with Ricky Ponting using his two best bowlers, Lee and Warne. All Marcus Trescothick, nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard and, later, Michael Vaughan had to do was to see out the first hour and them climb in against Jason Gillespie and Mike Kasprowicz whose decline must alarm their management.
As it was, after Lee's brilliant early burst of three wickets for four runs in 11 balls, he and Warne bowled 31 of the first 39 overs of the day against an England side which were nearly out of the game at 131 for nine. Wonderful bowling? Rotten batting? As usual, a bit of both, starting when Trescothick wafted at a Lee thunderbolt and Adam Gilchrist did the rest.
Now for the real worrying part of the game - Vaughan's innings. He claims he has felt in good nick all summer and believed he was right to have one-to-one net sessions with Duncan Fletcher than play a four day game for Yorkshire after the first Test.
Fellow Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott might criticise in devastating fashion at times, but always constructively. Before the Test match he described Vaughan's method as "in a technical mess" and then explained why he should sound almost cruel.
"He is picking his bat up towards first slip instead of straight. That wouldn't matter if he looped back inside to bring the bat down straight back towards the bowler. But he is bringing it down on the same plane and so is playing slightly onside and across straight balls. Again, he might get away with that if he used his long reach to get a good forward stride in.
"But he is getting nowhere and that is why he being bowled out by balls which shouldn't be hitting the stumps. Maybe lbw, but not bowled between bat and pad."
And that's what happened second ball from Lee on Saturday. It might have nipped back an inch but certainly not enough to beat half a bat's width, and his stumps were shattered to give him 31 runs in four innings including three clean bowled and a poor top-edged hook.
Lee followed up by winkling out Hoggard who at least lasted half an hour leaving Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell (seven caps between them) to make something of 31 for four and a lead of 128. Both played solidly and put on 42 before both went to Warne - or rather to unusual mistakes from Rudi Koertzen.
He gave Pietersen out to an attempted sweep from one bowled around the wicket which hit everything except bat or glove. There was so many rebounds, it is difficult to see how he could be so sure. Then, poor Bell got an even worse decision, also from around the wicket. The leg-break turned past the bat without the two coming together, and this decision was simply one of eyesight and sound.
To Bell's credit, he did not overreact to let everyone know he was not out, and surely deserves to play at Old Trafford in three days time. But still there was Flintoff, now joined by Geraint Jones who got his second snorter of the match from Lee to make "Freddie" realise his time had come to up the ante.
He lost Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison to successive balls from Warne, but then exploded in a manner that is best described as Bothamesque.
He took them all on, including Lee with all nine fielders on the boundary, but still hit four sixes including a massive one on to the television gantry on top of the pavilion.
Lee went for 16 in one over and Kasprowicz 20 in another which included three no-balls. A lead of 228 was increased by 51 in seven overs in partnership with Simon Jones who scored 12 of them. How on earth he survived the plumbest of lbw appeals to Lee from around the wicket, only Billy Bowden knows. The ball angled in, then reverse-swung to hit Jones below the knee roll and would have knocked out middle stump.
The bowler was distraught, and so was Ponting who ran 35 yards from slip to query the decision. All he got was a finger wagging from Bowden, who unaccountably had not raised the same digit 30 seconds earlier.
Flintoff finally heaved all across one from Warne to give the all time great spinner figures of 23.1-7-46-6 and take him to 599 Test wickets. Brilliant. As was Flintoff's 73 off 86 balls
Suddenly a target of about 240 was now 282, with history showing that 210 was the highest score to win a Test batting fourth on the ground, and 277 the highest ever fourth innings score. It looked all too easy until Flintoff came on to bowl at 47 for none in the 13th over.
Flintoff was on a hat-trick from the first innings and only just missed it. Then his second ball was inside-edged by Justin Langer into his stumps and Ponting edged a brute to Geraint Jones in the same over to give "Super Freddie" four wickets in nine balls. No wonder the chanting of his name increased by many decibels. Matthew Hayden adopted the anchor role until Jones found the edge in his first over and Trescothick took a blinder at slip.
Damien Martyn casually hit Hoggard's first ball of his second spell to mid-wicket where Bell took a good catch and, at 107 for four, all Union Jack supporters smelled blood - just like Flintoff who was regularly over 90 mph. It was then that Giles made a double strike, including the priceless wicket of Gilchrist, and when Flintoff had Gillespie lbw with a yorker, Vaughan claimed the extra half hour.
The ECB's treasury department must have been close to several coronaries with a Sunday sell-out now threatened. A wicketless Steve Harmison bowled the final over of the day and seemed to have settle the match with his fourth ball. It was a gorgeous and well-disguised slow floater timed at 68 mph, and Michael Clarke was on his third shot when down went the stumps.
That meant, with 107 needed, the Sunday rations would be short ones.