Two wickets for no runs in successive overs helped to keep England’s cricketers competitive on a fluctuating opening day of the second Ashes Test.
Australia doubtless envisaged a more commanding output than 273 for five, as England kept eking out a wicket just when they needed one most at the Adelaide Oval after Michael Clarke won the toss on a dry, drop-in pitch.
But after half-centuries from Chris Rogers (72), Shane Watson (51) and George Bailey (53), Clarke himself was still unbeaten at stumps two short of another 50 to ensure honours close to even.
James Anderson, without a wicket in the second innings of England’s first-Test defeat in Brisbane and likewise for almost 12 overs here, took the first of three to fall for 19 runs in 40 balls in the half-hour before tea.
To kickstart England’s most fruitful passage of play, Anderson had to stoop low with safe hands in his follow-through as Watson tried to straight-drive on the up.
It was hardly Plan A for a mode of dismissal, having selected Monty Panesar as a second spinner.
But at 155 for one, after Watson and opener Rogers had put on 121, England did not mind how a wicket came.
When Rogers then followed some turn from Graeme Swann with hands but not feet, to edge behind, Clarke and Steve Smith had to start again without a run between them.
They did so adequately, until Panesar had his say with one that turned from round the wicket to bowl Smith on the back-foot defence with the last ball of the session.
Stuart Broad had seen off the dangerous David Warner during a rain-shortened morning.
Warner was in the mood to try to take this game away from England quickly, but got no further than the eighth over.
The combative opener’s intention was clearly to dominate, in an attempt to keep the Ashes momentum with the hosts after their landslide victory at the Gabba.
His determination to attack brought him 25 of the first 26 runs, but then a false and costly shot too as he pushed Broad straight into the hands of point.
England had to work hard through an extended afternoon session once Watson and Rogers got comfortable.
The nearest the bowlers came to any success for more than two hours was when Panesar spun one past Rogers’ forward-defence and on to his front pad. But Kumar Dharmasena turned down the lbw appeal, and DRS ruled umpire’s call to spare the left-hander on 27.
Panesar exerted some control, but after two maidens was planted back over his head for a straight six by Watson, and Swann did not threaten on a slow pitch initially offering spin no more help than seam.
Rogers was especially fluent through his favoured off side and completed his 50 with a cut off Broad for his eighth four.
Watson duly reached the same landmark at a slightly quicker overall tempo, yet each then paid for an unexpected mistake.
After tea, especially in the first hour, England hinted at more wickets but took a long time to close the deal.
Panesar ought to have taken a straightforward return catch, offered by Bailey on 10, which would have left Australia 190 for five.
Bailey responded soon afterwards by going up the wicket and hitting the slow left-armer for a straight six.
He added another when over when he dispatched Panesar over long off, and posted his maiden Test 50 - in his second match, at the age 31 - when he met Broad’s attempt to intimidate him with the second new ball by clubbing a third maximum high towards the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion at midwicket.
Broad had regularly beaten the bat with the old ball, but could not find the edge - and Joe Root failed to cling on to a half-chance to get rid of Clarke for 18, diving to his right at midwicket off Swann.
But there was belated reward for England, when Bailey went to hook a looping Broad bouncer and hit the ball just within the reaches of Swann as he dived high to his right at square-leg.
Brad Haddin survived a Broad DRS for lbw, and was then dropped at point by a juggling Michael Carberry off Panesar.
But despite the missed chances, it was still no forlorn hope yet for England to hit back and level the series here.