Could the first Ashes Test of the summer live up to the long build-up?
Plenty didn't give Australia a prayer but now was their chance to prove different. What unfolded was five days of unrelenting drama where picking a winner, even right down to the final moments, seemed impossible. Here we look back on the events that went on in Nottingham...
Day one close - Eng 215 all out, Aus 75-4
As James Pattinson ballooned the first ball of the series over Alastair Cook, the question 'What exactly are Ashton Agar's Test credentials?' hung uncomfortably in the air. The raffish spinner's first ball in Test cricket offered little clue as Jonathan Trott creamed the juicy full-toss for four. But then Trott had some ground to make up himself after admitting to Nasser Hussain pre-play his penchant for Coldplay, Roxette and rom coms.
All seemed set fair for England at 102-2 but Kevin Pietersen fell and Trott (48) then dragged Peter Siddle (5-50) on and threatened to smash over his two remaining stumps despite posting his Test best at Trent Bridge. Spanked for 27 off his first four overs, Siddle continued to dismantle England with more relish than Mike Atherton experiencing 'The Ashes Zone' for the first time. "It's like Christmas in here with all these new toys," he said before making way for Nasser - shirt and jacket replaced by polo shirt - to dissect some of the gifts served up by English and Australian batsmen alike. Fourteen wickets on day one - including a James Anderson jaffa to send back Michael Clarke. Christmas, indeed, for seamers.
Day two close - Eng 215 & 80-2 lead Aus 280 by 15 runs
So now we know. Henley CC No 3 Ashton Agar just happens to be a rather handy Test No 11 and is now embedded in Ashes - and cricket - folklore as the game's most legendary last man after making a mockery of the manner in which England reduced Australia to 117-9. Hit Swann for six (twice)? Tick. Share a record Test stand (163)? Sure. Laugh after being caught on 98? Job done. Michael Holding called Australia's recovery "a big-time comeback", while the teenager himself said: "I'm wrapped."
Had he added Kevin Pietersen's wicket Agar might have wondered if he'd ever have a better Test day but with Australia still in front the chance went down, sparing England more mortification after the departure of Joe Root and Jonathan Trott in two balls. The day's focus shifted uncomfortably onto third umpire Marais Erasmus and the D(odgy)RS system, which, was so overburdened dissecting Root's dismissal that Hotspot plain missed a potential inside edge that might have saved Trott. England sought 'clarification' from the ICC and might have mentioned Erasmus' view that Agar's foot wasn't air-side when Matt Prior whipped off the bails when the newcomer had six. The decision left Prior 'spewing', according to Nass, but it threw up one of the most astonishing Ashes innings of all time. True fantasy cricket.
Day three close - Eng 215 & 326-6 lead Aus 280 by 261 runs
What to expect after the Ashtonishing events of day two? Tension of a more attritional nature took hold in the morning as England ticked over at 2.18, eking out a lead with the same determination shown by Ian Botham as he attempted to track down the culprit who ticked every item on his breakfast order list - twice. While 'operator error' took the blame for Hotspot's failure to reprieve Trott, caution was the watchword in the middle but Agar wasn't out of the spotlight for long as he bagged his maiden Test wicket, that of Alastair Cook (50) no less, after Peter Siddle (64) had rearranged Kevin Pietersen's furniture via an inside edge.
England improved their lunchtime total of 157-4 to 230-6 at tea as Ian Bell (95no) dropped anchor and Matt Prior injected some much-needed momentum but Stuart Broad lit the blue touch-paper when he refused to walk for a clear edge behind and with Australia out of reviews, they had to swallow umpire Aleem Dar's not out decision. Even Nasser - never a walker - called it the most "obvious edge of all time", while the usually placid Michael Holding said Broad had, by the ICC's definition, acted contrary to the spirit of the game. All of which detracted from one of Ian Bell's most responsible Test knocks yet. Just another quiet day...
Day four close - Eng 215 & 375 lead Aus 280 & 174-6 by 136 runs
With the pitch resembling one of Karachi's finest thanks to a mini heat-wave in the Midlands, temperatures rose in the Ashes Zone as Athers manfully explained how to play reverse swing, only to be cleaned out (once again) by 'Waqar Younis' in the virtual net. Strauss declined to bat. All of which made Ian Bell's 18th Test ton one of his best yet - a 'Rock of Gibraltar' knock that put the hosts in a winning position and ensured that at least one batsman would score more than Australia's No 11.
The importance of his 138-run partnership with Broad ("He's nicked one too many," said Bumble as the all-rounder departed for 65) shone through as England lost their last three wickets fall for four runs. Set 311 to win, Australia began their chase with enough bristling verve - Shane Watson and Chris Rogers putting on 84 - that even Beefy's face betrayed a flicker of concern. The sun-soaked Saturday crowd had all but lost their voice when Australia began to unravel, then flounder. With 150 needed and seven wickets in the bank, skipper Clarke feathered Broad behind and Swann trapped Smith lbw next ball. Game on, again. Promoted Agar saw the day out and it felt fitting that he'd begin the final day at the crease. But surely he wouldn't be there at the end...?
Day five result - England win by 14 runs
As Sky's pundits picked their moment of the Test (so far) before play resumed you couldn't help feeling that the best might still be to come - certainly if you support Australia. Once again Jimmy Anderson stepped up and a remarkable match seemed done and dusted after his third wicket of the morning but this is the Ashes and nothing comes easy, particularly with the nuggety Brad Haddin still embedded at the crease and Australia tapping a rich vein of No 11s.
James Pattinson picked up where Agar left off in the first innings and with Haddin taking the attack to Finn, the momentum tilted again, and again still further as 'the Watford Wall' failed to hold a tough diving chance to win the match. Australia have never won an Ashes Test by one wicket and with nerves frayed over a delayed lunch, the stage was set for high drama you'd struggle to find in the West End. Regrouped, England went back to man-of-the-match Anderson and he duly delivered the final blow, picking up his 10th wicket of the match with Haddin tickling one behind. Inevitably the finger stayed down and England, with nothing to lose, reviewed the decision and this time technology came up trumps in the hosts' favour. Pure theatre.
You can relive all the best action from the Test by reading our interactive commentary from Trent Bridge and catch the second Test, from Lord's, live on Sky Sports Ashes HD and the Ashes Event Centre from 10am on Thursday.