England captain Andrew Flintoff won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat as the sun came out to provide excellent day one conditions for his side to post a big total.
Every England batsman got a start, but their stable and perhaps nervous approach yielded just 234 runs from a day that was shortened to 80 overs by rain.
England openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss once again gave their team a good start, before the latter was caught behind by Adam Gilchrist off the bowling of Brett Lee for 29 with the score on 45.
Strauss looked in good touch, but was tempted into an uppish cut shot and could only edge the ball through to Gilchrist who took a head-high catch.
Cook was dismissed shortly after with Gilchrist taking a superb catch off an inside edge procured by the accurate Stuart Clark.
The Australian wicketkeeper had to change direction after the batsman got a deflection, diving away to his right to glove a great catch to have Cook out for 20 and England 58 for 2.
England take control
South African-born batsman Kevin Pietersen then joined Ian Bell at the crease, after being elevated to number four, and proceeded to play a more controlled innings as the pair put on a 108 run partnership to take charge of the match.
Ian Bell top scored with 71, but his
inside edge led to his downfall [GALLO/GETTY]
Pietersen took some quick singles and advanced at the bowlers during his knock of 41, but was out to a poor shot when trying to pull a McGrath delivery only to be well caught by Mike Hussey back-pedalling at midwicket.
Bell top scored on the day with 71, but it was a scratchy effort and hardly chanceless as he played and missed at plenty of deliveries and scored most of his runs off the edges of his bat.
It was Bell’s inside edge that would eventually lead to his downfall, when he played on to a good delivery from McGrath that nipped back to have Bell bowled 29 short of a century.
The Flintoff of old
With quick wickets falling, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff began their partnership both on zero but showed great patience early, then some power late as they remained unbeaten on 25 and 42 respectively at the stumps.
Captain Flintoff hit some of the day’s best shots, with one punchy six off Clark and some beautiful cover drives for four revealing a more relaxed player who may well be rediscovering his natural game.
With morning showers forecast for the next two days play may again be slow, but on a good pitch England could bat themselves out of a 5-0 series result with a big first innings score.