Bruising day of punch and counter-punch
We thought it would be close, and we weren't wrong.
If an Ashes series is a heavyweight title fight, this was a cagey opening round that saw both fighters land big blows before retiring behind their watchful jabs. And if at the close some judges had Australia marginally ahead on points, this is a ding-dong that is yet to see its decisive moment.
It was that sort of day. Just when one side looked to have forced the other close to the ropes, the opposition would slip away and come back counter-punching.
Australia attacked in bursts. After gaining control at lunchtime, they let the match wriggle away from them in a strangely cautious afternoon before biting back briefly after tea and then sitting back again. England, watchful from the start, were reactive rather than proactive, at one stage going 21 overs without a boundary off the bat before stepping on the gas and then wobbling afresh at the end.
That they got to where they did had something to do with doggedness and a lot to do withthe puzzling tactics and field settings employed by Ricky Ponting.
His side came out after lunch as the dominant force, only to then embark on a sustained period of damage limitation that had as much in common with traditional notions of Aussie aggression as a weak-fingered handshake.
Fielders were set deep. Singles were given away. The pressure that had piled up on the shoulders of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood was allowed to ebb away. It was as if we were watching a meaningless fifth day draw rather than the first day of the first Ashes Test. 97 runs were added for loss of no wickets.
Ponting the leader has grown used to having the biggest weapons at his disposal. When you've got McGrath and Warne to call on in times of trouble, you don't need to tax the old tactics too much.
His problem now is that those big guns have been spiked. To punch holes in the enemy's defences now takes a cunning and imagination that wasn't often required before.
To his rescue came an unheralded trio of bowlers and a rash of indiscreet shots from established England batsmen.
At the start of an Ashes summer, there's always that horrible wait among England fans to find out which Australian will emerge as the fearsome Nemesis, a superhero avenger in a green and gold cape with the power to destroy English hopes from nowhere at any time.
The name changes, but the role remains the same - Dennis Lillee in the 1970s, Terry Alderman in 1989, Warne so often that a generation of English children cried themselves to sleep at the mere mention of his name.
The early money this year was on Johnson, his deeds in South Africa and rumoured mastery of reverse swing pushing him ahead of his lesser-known team-mates. When he reduced England to 90-3 at lunch, the mantle was his for the taking - Andrew Strauss hurried by the fastest ball of the day into gloving behind, Ravi Bopara foxed by an off-cutter 25mph slower and wafting to cover.
We sat back and waited for more, only for Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle to then steal the spotlight away.
Glamorous the two are not. There's none of Lillee's temper, nor Thompson's mouth, but there was plenty of anger, a willingness to work on an unhelpful pitch and swing after tea to waylay a recovering England.
Siddle softened up Ravi Bopara, cracking him in the throat with a short one. Later he shattered the timbers and hopes of Andrew Flintoff and Matt Prior just as the pair threatened to accelerate away.
Hilfenhaus might sound like an Austrian Christmas delicacy, but it was his strength and perseverance that won the key wicket of Collingwood after tea, when England were looking increasingly comfortable, to add to the earlier scalp of Alistair Cook.
What no-one expected was that Nathan Hauritz would be the one to get rid of Pietersen. Having toiled all afternoon with almost zero menace, the off-spinner was a surprise choice to come back into the attack an hour after tea.
Maybe that helps explain Pietersen's choice of shot. He had been in restrained form all day (his 50 took him 141 minutes and included just three fours), and having just survived a plumb lbw shout against Hilfenhaus looked in the sort of mood to bat Australia into furious frustration.
Instead, the frustration was all England's. Pietersen aimed a premeditated sweep at a ball two feet outside his off stump, got a top edge and was left on one knee, head bowed, as Hauritz danced into Ponting's embrace.
Few of his team-mates could criticise. Six of England's top seven scored at least 30, bedded down and looking set to add more. That none pushed past 70 had as much to do with indisciplined strokeplay as Australian inspiration.
The much-discussed pitch turned out to be one for attrition and application. There was little bounce, not much pace onto the bat and nothing to get the ball jagging off the seam.
It suited Collingwood's nurdling, and it suited Siddle's accuracy. It may subsequently favour the spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, particularly if the footholds outside the left-handers' off-stump continue to spread at the same rate.
England will lament the late wickets of Prior and Flintoff in particular. The pair had added 86 runs at a rapid rate, lifting a sometimes quiet crowd, forcing the Aussie attack into errors and bringing back happy memories of Freddie's partnerships with another stumper, Geraint Jones, back in 2005.
Airy eyes-up drives accounted for both. Had they stuck together for the remaining eight overs of the day, England would have ended the day with noses in front.
As it was, the balance tilted again. It's that kind of match.