Tim Paine surprised England's dressing room, long-time personal mentor Ricky Ponting and legend Shane Warne by opting to bowl first in the fifth Ashes Test.
Paine called correctly for a fourth time in the five-Test series but what came next shocked counterpart Joe Root, who struggled to hide his glee when invited to bat first at the Oval.
The London venue, where the hosts rallied after losing 6-96 to finish 8-271 at stumps on Thursday, is renowned for being among England's most batsman-friendly grounds.
Paine's decision flew in the face of Ian Chappell's oft-quoted theory that nine times out of ten you bat first; the tenth time you think about it and still bat first.
Ponting and Warne suggested on Sky Sports that Australia's captain, who holds a 2-1 series lead and is chasing Australia's first Ashes series win in England since 2001, got it wrong.
"The sun was out, it's a good forecast for the week. It might have been a bit difficult this first session, there might be the odd one that moves around ... but there's no way it looked like to me it was going to go all over the place," Warne said.
"If you win the toss and bowl first, you expect to take three to four wickets in the first session."
Joe Denly was the single wicket to fall in Thursday's morning session, although Root was dropped twice.
"Having a look at the pitch, there was a lot of live green grass on the wicket but when you looked away from those areas it was quite dry," Ponting said.
Paine suggested at the toss he was "a bit split on what to do", describing the pitch as "strange".
Jos Buttler, who will resume on 64 when day two starts, admitted England were surprised to hear of Paine's decision.
"We were going to bat. There's not many times Australia bowl first ... it showed there was a little bit of indecision just with the way the wicket looked," Buttler said.
"It's not quite how an Oval wicket would look 10 years ago when you'd turn up and know you'd bat.
"It's actually been a pretty good cricket wicket."
VENUES (MIN 50 TESTS) WITH LOWEST PERCENTAGE OF TEAMS OPTING TO BOWL:
*11.7 per cent - Adelaide Oval (9/77)
*11.4 per cent - Old Trafford (9/79)
*13.7 per cent - The Oval (14/102)
Source: BBC statistician Andrew Samson.