England battled the lesser angels of their nature to reach 266 for three after winning a crucial toss on the first day of the second Ashes cricket test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.
Batting in front of 31,458 spectators - the largest test match crowd at Adelaide since the Bodyline series of 1932 - England suppressed an urge toward self-destruction to play itself into a strong, if not impregnable position by stumps.
They owed that position to Paul Collingwood, who shared partnerships of 113 with Ian Bell and 108, unbroken, with Keven Pietersen through the day's second and third sessions to restore the England innings after the loss of both openers before lunch. Collingwood was 98 not out at stumps, poised to achieve the century he was denied when he was out for 96 in the second innings of the first test at Brisbane, a match won by Australia by 277 runs.
Pietersen was 60, sustaining his form from his 92 in the same innings and the buccaneering spirit which characterized his pivotal contribution to England's Ashes series victory at home last year. Collingwood's innings was the thread that united the events of the last two sessions, binding them into a cohesive whole which represented England's best day of the series so far. From 45 for two when openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook were out, Collingwood steered England through a warm, arduous afternoon to the safety of stumps when the match was as much theirs as Australia's.
Collingwood resisted the temptation to bid for his century before the close of play. He was out prematurely in Brisbane, charging down the wicket, attempting to reach his hundred with a single shot but he lingered in the high 90s for the last several overs of the day and didn't let anxiety prevail.
Collingwood and Bell had batted through the entire second session, bringing up their half centuries almost simultaneously in the final over. Bell batted 175 minutes to reach the mark, Collingwood 147 but both interspersed their complimentary innings with four fours.
Bell was out early in the final session, after increasing his score to 60 with successive fours off Brett Lee. He was attempting another hooked boundary when the ball flew from the top edge of his bat and Lee, following through, took the catch standing next to the batsman.
Collingwood and Pietersen, united by that dismissal, added 122 runs in the post-tea session which was the portion of the first day that England unequivocally dominated.
Pietersen dashed to his 50 in 82 minutes, from 69 balls, with successive pulled boundaries off Shane Warne. His half century included four fours and a six, also hit off Warne, which was driven inside-out over the long-off boundary: one of the longest boundaries in world cricket.
The second new ball was taken shortly before the day's end, when England was 254-3, as Collingwood and Pietersen resisted Lee and Clark in a dramatic prelude to stumps. Collingwood's century beckoned but eluded him as he remained on 98 through the last two overs.
Pietersen skied a ball from Lee in the day's final over toward McGrath at mid-off but the ball steepled and swirled in an increasing breeze and fell wide of the fieldsman, saving the partnership and England's position.
Clark finished the day as Australia's best bowler with two from 25 from 15 overs, taking the second new ball with Lee after being bowled sparingly in the late afternoon. Lee took Bell's wicket at a stiff cost of 77 runs from 20 overs.
Warne, who entered the attack after only 77 minutes and in the 18th over, was much less the threat he was imagined to be and finished with no wicket for 85 from 27 overs. The great leg-spinner still had the ability to beat the bat but the largest part of his contribution to this match may lie ahead.