Peerless Ponting steamrollers England's hopes
You can make statistics tell you almost anything, but some stand up and speak for themselves.
Ricky Ponting has played in six Ashes series before this one. In half of them he'd scored a century in his first innings of the series. No-one can say they weren't warned.
A day that had begun with such brio for England ended with a familiar feeling of depression hanging over the home crowd. 56 overs and four hours without a wicket, 189 runs stolen and slapped in an unbroken stand, Ponting trotting off supremely satisfied on 100 not out.
The pairing of Ponting and Katich squashed the life out of England as slowly and surely as a steamroller. The match remains alive - the lead is still 186 runs - but so too does the partnership.
At no point did either man cut loose. Australia's 200 came up off 348 deliveries. But it's not that sort of pitch, and it wasn't that sort of occasion.
Ponting's 38th Test ton was a chanceless knock. En route to it, he passed 11,000 Test runs, should that one-off match against the Rest of the World count in your scorebook. It sometimes feels like 10,000 of them have come against England.
England fans have always feared Ponting. Katich's complementary century came as a ruder surprise to those unaware of the quiet success story in the last year of Test cricket.
Since being recalled last summer, however, and being converted to opener rather than a number six, he has been a batsman reborn. In India he averaged 48, at home to New Zealand and South Africa 53 and 54, on tour in South Africa 43.
On Thursday he was happy to take a back seat, first to his dashing young opening partner Phillip Hughes and then to his skipper. It was sensible rather than swashbuckling, restrained rather than rapid - his ton took 214 balls and 267 minutes - and it suited his team's needs perfectly.
There was a near-impossible caught-and-bowled chance off Flintoff at the start, and a lbw shout from Graeme Swann on 56 that any umpire in the world except Billy Doctrove would have given. That was it. The 33-year-old treated it all with the equanimity that only experience can bring.
England's five-man attack could do nothing else to dislodge him until he'd sailed far past his previous Test best score on these shores. And that, for Andrew Strauss, is an ominous omen for the remainder of match and series.
The central plank of England's bowling strategy on this pitch was the selection of two spinners. When Nathan Hauritz finished with three wickets in England's first innings, the stage seemed set for torture by tweak.
But while Swann was economical, shipping just 49 runs off his 20 overs, he found turn infrequently. When the ball did grip, the tweak was slow enough for the batsman to react to it with ease.
Monty Panesar twirled with familiar animation. Unfortunately the only cheers he could raise from the packed stands came for his engagingly enthusiastic fielding.
It's at times like this that a skipper tends to turn to his talisman. For a while at least, that looked like working.
Flintoff tore in from the River End after lunch to cut Hughes in half and then have him caught behind as he backed away to leg. He raised his arms to the cavorting fans in the main grandstand, and everyone sat forward expectantly for more.
It never came, despite his speed frequently getting up to 93 mph. When he got Ponting down the other end for the first time, there was to be no repeat of that legendary Edgbaston over four years ago, no matter how many times the Barmy Army sang the Flintstones theme or booed the chomping Punter.
England's other pacemen struggled even more. James Anderson's aim was off, with little sign of the swing that Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus had found on the first day, and Stuart Broad retired to the pavilion early with a sore calf.
It had all started so differently. Under grey skies that suggested early swing and danger, England had raised memories of 2005 - if any more were needed - with a tail-end tormenter of a morning for Ponting's men.
The rough par score most had agreed on over breakfast was around the 380 mark, but as first Broad and night-watchman Anderson, and then Swann, cut loose with wide-eyed glee, that was passed at a pace that brought a quiet Cardiff crowd to its feet.
It was the sort of clean-limbed hitting that delights one captain and beetles the brow of the other. Broad drove with long-limbed elegance; Swann reverse-swept and biffed over the top.
There were 67 runs added for the ninth wicket, 99 off 16.5 overs in a frantic hour. At first it was just fun, but as Mitchell Johnson and Siddle toiled fruitlessly and the Barmy bugler tootled furiously, it became increasingly serious stuff.
Perhaps England should have taken note. If the tail-enders could bat with such ease, what could the fourth highest run-scorer in Test history produce?
There was always the nagging worry that this pitch was better for batting on than England's top order made it appear. There is now a related concern to add to that - where their supposedly superior attack are going to find this next wicket from.
It needs a big start on Friday morning. And it needs a big morning to follow. This was Australia's day in almost every way.