First Test, day one, Cardiff
England 343-7: Root 134, Ballance 61, Stokes 52
Australia yet to bat
Joe Root led an England fightback with a glittering century against Australia on the opening day of the 2015 Ashes series.
Coming to the crease with his team in trouble on 43-3, the Yorkshire batsman attacked from the off on his way to 134 from 166 balls in Cardiff.
Gary Ballance added a battling 61 and Ben Stokes a rapid 52 as England reached 343-7 by the close.
While Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood shared six wickets, Mitchell Johnson toiled on an unresponsive pitch after England won the toss and chose to bat.
The left-arm paceman, England’s tormentor-in-chief during the 5-0 Ashes whitewash down under, conceded 87 runs from his 20 overs as the hosts shaded the balance of an enthralling day’s play.
The verdict after day one
First blood to the Aussies
Once the fireworks and fanfare of a rain-delayed opening ceremony were out of the way, Australia began their quest for a first Ashes win in England since 2001 with three early wickets.
Adam Lyth’s first Ashes innings lasted only 10 balls as he was squared up by Hazlewood and sharply taken off a leading edge by David Warner in the gully.
England captain Alastair Cook had looked relatively comfortable against the new ball, but fell for 20 trying to take on Nathan Lyon’s off-spin, his attempted cut lodging in Brad Haddin’s gloves.
England were plunged deeper into the mire in the following over when Ian Bell was trapped lbw by a full delivery from Starc, who left the field in the final session to undergo treatment for a sort ankle.
Root to the rescue
England could easily have entered damage-limitation mode, but Root took the opposite approach.
Cutting and pulling anything short, and hurtling between the wickets, he raced to fifty in 56 balls and completed his seventh Test century soon after tea with a characteristic cover drive.
In the meantime Ballance, Root’s one-time housemate, rediscovered the form that had deserted him in recent Tests as he compiled his first fifty in seven innings.
His partnership with Root was worth 153 when Ballance played around a straight ball from Hazlewood and was out lbw.
But it could have been different…
Root’s crucial counter-punching innings could easily have been over before it started.
After surviving a narrow lbw appeal off his first ball, he edged his next delivery towards Haddin, who dived to his right and shelled the chance.
Summarising for Test Match Special, former England captain Michael Vaughan said Haddin’s drop “could be a key moment in the series”.
It will be some time before we know whether Vaughan’s prophecy is fulfilled but, like all leading batsmen, Root made the most of his reprieve with a sublime hundred that changed the complexion of the day.
Johnson – awesome to ordinary
Central to Root’s strategy was an aggressive approach towards Johnson, whose 37 wickets destroyed England in the 2013-14 series.
With the exception of a spell in which he unsettled Ballance with short balls, Johnson struggled on a pitch ill-suited to his talents.
So frequently did England hit him to the boundary that by the final session the Barmy Army felt emboldened enough to mock Johnson with chants about his wayward bowling that had not been aired since his toils on the 2010-11 series down under.
With their talisman struggling, Australia were indebted to Starc, who found late swing to have Root caught at slip and Stokes clean bowled in the final session.
Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali countered with a measured assault on the new ball to take England well past 300.
And even Buttler’s disappointing demise – holing out to mid-on – could not take the gloss off a highly encouraging England display.
Stats of the day
- Joe Root has scored seven Test centuries before the age of 25. Among England players, only Alastair Cook managed more – nine. Former all-rounder Ian Botham made six.
- Root’s century took 118 balls, making it the fastest century in the first Test of an Ashes series.
- Since Root’s debut in December 2012, England have had 37 century partnerships in Tests; he has been involved in 16 of them.
- The 153-run stand between Joe Root and Gary Ballance means England have already equalled the number of century partnerships they managed in the entire 2012-13 Ashes series in Australia.
- Since hitting 143 v West Indies at North Sound in April, England number four Ian Bell has scored 56 Test runs in nine innings at an average of 6.22.
England’s Joe Root: “I’m really pleased with the way things have gone. I rode my luck at times, especially early on.
“It’s a little bit slow. Seeing the first few not carry was a bit of a worry. There’s a little bit there – there are a few little indentations which could be helpful when we bowl.
“I’m happy to be in the position we are in as team. Hopefully we can kick on in the morning. The longer we can keep them out there, the better it is for us.
“Moeen and Broady are both very capable of scoring big scores – hopefully tomorrow is one of those days where they take it to them and we score 400-plus.”
Ex-England batsman Geoff Boycott on Test Match Special
“It has been a very interesting day, lots of incidents I thought England gave the initiative away. It’s a brilliant pitch to negate the two fast bowlers of Australia, slow nothingness so it’s easier to play the quick bowlers, perfectly prepared for England. The Australian bowlers were striving all day for wickets, they bowled a lot of hittable balls with attacking fields even when there was nothing in the pitch and I thought that played into England’s hands because there was plenty of room to hit it into the gaps.”
Australia’s Josh Hazlewood, who took 3-70: “The game is fairly level at this stage. Hopefully we can clean them up in the morning.
“We were good in patches. We kept it tight for periods but we leaked a few runs. When Root was batting he played fantastically and we need to find a plan for him.
“The wicket is quite slow and nullifies the short stuff but we tried to keep it full and swinging. The Duke ball is good fun – if you get it in the right areas there is always something there. If they get 40 or 50 more I think that’s about par for them.”
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