By Stephen Giles
- England end the day on 343/7 (88 overs)
- Joe Root scores 134 runs
- Australia yet to bat
CARDIFF, UK – The cry of “Roooot” echoed around the SWALEC stadium as Joe Root once again salvaged England from being swallowed up with a dazzling counter-attacking 134, as The Ashes lived up to its pre-match billing with a captivating first day in Cardiff.
A wonderful 153 fourth-wicket partnership between Root (134 from 166) and Gary Ballance (61 from 149) catapulted the hosts back into contention after a tough start on a day which has ebbed and flowed with cut and thrust, in one direction to the next.
Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch offering little for the seamers. Nevertheless, they soon found themselves in an all-too familiar predicament as three wickets fell in quick-fire time. Cook, and England would have had dreams of a marauding start to the series, however this was soon checked, with Cook cutting at the second ball after the drinks break and edging spinner Nathan Lyon into the gloves of Brad Haddin for 20.
That followed the early departure of Ashes-debutant Adam Lyth, who was out on the 12th ball of the morning, albeit after a superb David Warner catch down low, gifting Josh Hazlewood his first Ashes wicket in his first over.
Three consecutive maidens followed for Hazlewood, who was the pick of the Aussie bowlers, emphasising that he will be a real handful for England’s left-handers this series.
Two wickets down and in need of runs, who should enter the fray but Ian Bell, hero from 2013 but desperately seeking a score. Interestingly, six of Bell’s last nine Test innings have either been zero or one. The Warwickshire man’s demise continued as he was soon trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc, for one and England were reeling at 43-3.
England would have been in all-sorts of disarray had Haddin not dropped Joe Root second ball off the bowling of Starc: 43 for three should really have become 43 for four. Luckily Haddin’s mishap was the kick-start England needed and signaled the time for the liveliest batting of the morning session.
Boundaries poured down as Root effortlessly counter-punched the dynamic Starc, Johnson and Hazelwood. Despite Ballance having a thirteen-over head start, Root soon overtook him. Ballance, offering stoical backing was reminded of the danger posed by Mitchell Johnson, taking a severe blow to the chest via his bat to reach lunch on 28 not-out, with Root’s aggression bringing him 33 off only 24 deliveries, taking England to 88-3 at lunch
Recommencing on 33, Root swiftly moved into the nervous nineties with a sequence of graceful drives through the covers and down the ground, taking the sails out of the Australian bowler’s en-route. Ballance on the other hand hit his half-century off 127 balls with some meticulous, if understated batting.
Acting as anchor to Root’s attack-minded play, a role Ballance continuously seems to relish as England’s number three, something which has appeared to desert him of late. From the depths of desolation with England hovering at 43-3, these two took England to 190-3 at tea, before Ballance was out-done by an in-swinger from the exciting Hazelwood after the interval, breaking up the 153-run partnership for the fourth wicket, with England on 196-4.
Stokes and Root supplemented another 84 to England’s total, before Root was guilty of maybe driving one too many times by edging a wide delivery to Shane Watson at slip, off the bowling of Starc. The crowd rose as one to acknowledge England’s main man with yet another awe-inspiring innings which put England into a strong position.
With the new ball to come, Stokes eased past fifty for the third time in his short Test career, before Starc shattered his stumps and sent the Aussies into raptures, but not before rejoicing by placing a finger to his lips with Stokes (52 from 78) on his way back to the pavilion. England were 293-6 and in danger of letting all the good work vanish into thin air.
With the day drawing to a close, Mitchell Johnson came into the attack, new ball in hand and was treated to some pantomime booing and ironic cheering as Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler smacked the ball around the ground, not least Ali, whilst enjoying England’s new attacking approach, slog-sweeped Nathan Lyon for six over mid-wicket before Johnson, the villain of the piece had the last laugh by catching Buttler off the bowling of Hazelwood for a transient 27.
England finished day one on 343-7 (88 overs) with Moeen Ali 26 not-out and Stuart Broad yet to score. An interesting day, England losing key wickets at key times, but with runs on the board it sets up a tantalising second day in Cardiff.
You can't afford to give Joe Root a second chance dropped 2nd ball on "0"….great fightback by Root & Ballance !!
— Ian Botham (@BeefyBotham) July 8, 2015
Day two continues tomorrow starting at 11:00am BST. Follow the action with Britwatch Live Scores