After stumbling to 43-3, a Joe Root century steered England to 343-7 on day one of the first Test match against Australia in Cardiff on Wednesday.
England skipper Alistair Cook won the first toss of the much anticipated 2015 Ashes series, and he chose to bat first, with intermittent rain causing a brief delay to proceedings. There were no real surprises in the respective team selections, with Shane Watson chosen ahead of Mitchell Marsh, despite Marsh hitting back-to-back centuries in their two warm-up games.
The overcast conditions offered a bit of swing for the bowlers up front, and Josh Hazlewood made full use of it, forcing Adam Lyth to edge one to David Warner, with just seven runs on the board.
Cook, the leading run-scorer in Test matches this year, started to get comfortable at the crease with Gary Ballance, as the pair shared a 35-run stand. Nathan Lyon would find the breakthrough however, Cook had to depart for 20.
Ian Bell, going into this series under some pressure to find form, compounded his lean patch as Mitchell Starc produced a brilliant full delivery to trap the 33-year-old lbw, and leave the hosts struggling on 43-3.
That was as good as it got for the Australians for a while however, as Joe Root produced a counter-attacking masterclass to propel the English into the driving seat. Ballance appeared to struggle with the short ball, but Mitchell Johnson and Starc didn’t use that delivery enough to cause him any genuine discomfort.
Root rattled the usually lethal pair of Mitchells and complemented Ballance’s steely accumulation to put on a 153-run stand. Ballance would eventually fall for Hazlewood’s second wicket, but that didn’t prevent Ben Stokes from sharing Root’s free-flowing mood.
Root notched up his second Ashes century and seventh of his career, before the pair shared a brisk 84-run stand. Root would eventually feel one outside off to go for a brilliant 134, but Stokes continued to pile on the pressure and he brought up his half-century in the process.
Stokes was bowled by Starc for 52, and Jos Buttler would be the last wicket to fall on the day for 27, with Moeen Ali providing some stern resistance to the new ball late on to finish not out on 26. England will go into day 2 the happier of the two sides considering their poor start. 343-7.