Australia reached 0-82 at lunch on Thursday’s opening day of the fifth Ashes Test, showing the sort of grit that was so sorely lacking at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
Michael Clarke indicated pre-match that the dead rubber would last only two or three days because the pitch was so green.
There might have been a touch of hyperbole from the outgoing captain, but incredibly dark skies at The Oval confirmed it was a bowl-first situation.
Alastair Cook did as much.
It was a ploy that achieved unbelievable success in the fourth Test, when England skittled Australia for 60 and snatched the urn.
This time, Stuart Broad wasn’t quite as dynamic, while the tourists belatedly discovered their dour side.
Broad snared 8-15 in his opening spell at Trent Bridge.
At The Oval, he was taken off after five overs.
Australia were 7-38 at drinks on day one in Nottingham and couldn’t make it to lunch.
In London, David Warner was watchful early and refused to throw caution to the wind as he so often had.
The first boundary came in the 15th over – at the same point, Australia were nine down in the fourth Test.
It was a powerful pull shot from Warner, who refused to go after 45 deliveries before striking the blow.
Warner was 53no at the meal break, already his highest first-innings Test score in England.
Chris Rogers was likewise resolute, unbeaten on 27 after 75 balls.
Broad had a confident lbw appeal turned down in the first over but Cook rightly refused to review.
An edge from Rogers fell short of Cook at first slip in the sixth over, while two maidens followed.
To their credit, Australia never became antsy, although it was a belated show of starch.
England boast an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-Test series, having recorded crushing wins in Cardiff, Birmingham and Nottingham.
Clarke’s men have been embarrassed but they can save a degree of face.
England have never recorded more than three Test wins in a home series against Australia.
The series finale also has added meaning because it is Clarke’s and Rogers’ swan songs.
Australia made two changes to the XI that was thumped at Trent Bridge, with Peter Siddle and Mitch Marsh coming in at the expense of Josh Hazlewood and Shaun Marsh.